Elliot Whitefield isn’t the first high school coach to use extra running in practice as a way to help focus his team on good free throw shooting, and he certainly won’t be the last.
The Evanston coach has taught that lesson ever since he started coaching, and that work at the charity stripe paid off in a big way Tuesday afternoon.
After Savannah Norfleet’s buzzer-beating 3-point basket tied the game in regulation, the Wildkits converted 8-of-10 at the free throw line and earned a 56-50 overtime victory over host Loyola Academy.
Traditionally, the Wildkit girls haven’t been a program that will beat you at the charity stripe. The victory was even sweeter because it will have postseason implications for both the winners and losers as they challenge for a top four seed at the Class 4A sectional tournament.
While Evanston (10-2) almost couldn’t miss at the stripe, the host team missed a combined 9 free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime and shot only 50 percent (14-of-28) for the game.
“Today just shows you that they’ll do anything to avoid running,” said Whitefield. “They have to hit free throws in practice, or they have to run. That puts a little more pressure on them to get them ready for game situations like today.
“Both Krystal (Forrester) and Cookie (Boothe) hit some big free throws today. We didn’t have too many opportunities to run our halfcourt offense because they fouled us so much, and that turned out to be good for us because we’re not at the point where we’re able to grind out scores in our offense yet.
“We started dribbling too much in that fourth quarter (after leading by 8 points) and we had too many girls trying to isolate and go 1-on-1 like it’s the NBA. You can’t do that against a team that plays good help side defense like Loyola does. But Savannah hit a ridiculous shot at the end, and that saved us.”
Norfleet’s 35-foot bank shot capitalized on the opening the Ramblers gave the visitors when Loyola’s Mary Cormier missed a free throw with six seconds remaining. The hosts committed two fouls to keep ETHS from getting off a shot, but Norfleet launched the game-tying effort and watched in disbelief as it banked in.
In the overtime session Norfleet connected on another clutch triple with 1 minutes, 34 seconds remaining that gave Evanston the lead for good. Forrester added 4 points at the free throw line to secure the win.
Norfleet sank 6-of-13 field goal attempts to pace the winners with 18 points. Next best for ETHS were Forrester (12 points, 6 rebounds) and Boothe (11 points). Liz Satter of Loyola led all scorers with 22 points.
Source: ETHS Sports Information