Experienced Girls Basketball’s journey to state starts today


Lia Kelly

Senior Kayla Henning is one of four returning players.

Eli Cohen, Sports Editor

Following last season’s heart-wrenching overtime loss to Maine West, Illinois’ state champions, ETHS’ Girls Basketball team returns to the court with a nearly identical roster, hoping the more experienced squad can shoot their way downstate.

The Kits lineup features four returning starters, as seniors Ambrea Gentle, Kayla Henning, Tyler Mayne and Jayla Turchin all return for their final seasons in orange and blue.

“This is the first year since I’ve been here that we’ve had basically the same group come back the next season. So even in the last couple weeks in practice, I can see that they already understand our system,” coach Brittanny Johnson said. “They know our offense and our defense, so it puts us at an advantage to start the season, and I think that experience is going to help us be better than we were last season.”

Topping last years 24-8 run won’t be easy, but the Kits have no reason to believe that it won’t  happen. 

“We came up short but I’m actually proud of the team because we pulled through and came together as a team. Even though it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, I think we did pretty well,” Turchin said. “I think our growth [from last season] will transition really well. We’ve played with each other for three years, so we really know each others game, and I think that will really help us get to our goal, which is a state championship.”

Turchin broke out as a top scorer for Evanston last year, and was recognized by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, who named her a part of the 3rd team All-State. While she led ETHS to a successful season last year, the 5’11” three-star recruit might miss the start of the year due to injury.

Turchin isn’t the only starter dealing with an injury, as starting point guard and St. Louis commit Tyler Mayne also enters the season out of the lineup.

Despite the injuries, Johnson has full faith in her team, as the whole team’s experience will help them with a ‘next-one-up’ mentality.

“We upgraded our schedule, so I think we’re playing one of the toughest schedules in the state, but I’m confident with that knowing that we have kids who have that experience, and who know what it takes to compete at the varsity level,” Johnson explained. “I think we’re a team that views adversity like it’s nothing. For our kids, it’s just like whatever, we’ll make the best of it.”

The Kits face two early season challenges, as they open their season today with a 2 p.m. tipoff against Milwaukee Academy of Science, who finished fourth in Wisconsin last year, in addition to their home opener against Simeon this Friday, Nov. 29 in Beardsley Gym.

 ETHS’ pace will be vital to their success, as they look to push the tempo and run in transition. Johnson is hoping the faster paced game will be beneficial to Evanston due to their elite quickness.

“We want to score within the first ten seconds of the offense if we can,” Johnson said. “We’ve been a team that’s averaged 60 or 70 points a game, but I think we’d love to be in the 80s or 90s this season. We feel like with the offensive weapons we have, we should be able to do that.”

In addition to the tempo, the Kits’ shooting is another large part of their game as they emphasize spreading the floor in a half-court set.

Henning, Mayne and Turchin all possess exceptional playmaking skills, as well as a solid shot. With their ability to spread the floor, it’ll open lanes for teammates to cut, in addition to making space for center and Southeast Missouri State commit Ambrea Gentle to have a one-on-one mismatch in the paint.

Without a doubt, ETHS’ Girls Basketball team has what it takes to make a run at a state title. From the years of experience, to their tremendous versatility, the Kits seem to have an extraordinary season in store.