Girls basketball seniors leave program in historic fashion

Two LadyKits get hyped before a game

Two LadyKits get hyped before a game

Charlie Gruner, Sports Editor

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While some predicted a decline in performance amidst a coaching change, the girls basketball team only improved from previous years thanks to a dominant senior class.

“I haven’t coached for a very long time, but I’ve never had a team quite like this,” coach Brittanny Johnson said. “I’ve never had a team that made me this excited to come to work everyday. I’ve never wanted to coach a team this badly.”

The chemistry that the players have been able to build with their new head coach led to an impressive 24-3 overall regular season record, winning them a conference championship and a fifth overall ranking in the state of Illinois.

“This team has come such a long way since we started playing together in fourth grade,” senior Leah Robinson said. “Seeing how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown is something that none of us ever imagined.”

Led by an experienced group of seniors, including Western Michigan commit Leighah-Amori Wool, the 2017 class became one of the winningest in Evanston history.

“We’ve had our ups and downs throughout the years but in the end we all understand that if someone needs help or encouragement, we have each other’s backs no matter what happens,” Robinson said.

“We did not start off the season on the right foot, especially due to me being a new coach,” Johnson said. “There has to be a level of trust built between the players and coach, and that takes time to develop given that we have so many seniors.”

Johnson explained that that trust was built by the players knowing that she wasn’t trying to change everything that they were doing, she was trying to make them even better and add to their talents, and things took off from there.

A team doesn’t earn such a high ranking without a signature win, and that win came on Jan. 21 when the Kits travelled to Whitney Young and took down a dominant Dolphins team. They also defeated arch-rival New Trier for the first time since the 2012-13 season, sweeping them two games to none.

“Winning a game at Whitney Young is very hard to do. They were really athletic and really aggressive, and we handled their pressure very well,” Johnson said. “They were a very different team than we’ve ever faced. It was a marquee victory for us.”

“Beating New Trier was one of the best moments in the entire season,” senior Krystal Forrester said. “Even though this is my fourth year on the team, it was my first time ever beating them, and it felt incredible to finally be on the winning end of such a bitter rivalry, and twice in one season.”

On the contrary, the week that shaped their season was a four game stretch in which they lost three games, to Rolling Meadows, Hersey, and Loyola. They were the team’s only three losses of the entire season.

“I felt like we took steps backwards in those games. We got outplayed by teams that we shouldn’t have. However, that stretch was a turning point in our season and we’ve been a completely different team since then,” Johnson said.

The ultimate goal from the start of the season for the entire group was to make history and become the first team to ever win a championship for Evanston. Whatever the end result may be, the seniors can proudly say that they became one of the best classes to ever come through this school, and win a conference title during the first year of a new head coach.

“The one thing that I am most proud of is the confident, strong young ladies that they’ve become on and off the court,” Johnson said. “They really believe in themselves and each other, and that is the biggest change that I’ve seen out of this group over the course of the year.”