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The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

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Girls basketball looks playoff-ready, closes out regular season with blowout win

Seniors Ransom, Starks each post 22 points in final tune-up before postseason play

On Feb. 2, 2021, then-freshman Zuri Ransom and Kailey Starks made their varsity debut. Just four years later, on Feb. 6, Starks and Ransom—now seniors—finished out their last regular home game with the Kits, facing Vernon Hills at home.

“This game is a bittersweet moment for [Zuri and me].” Starks reflected. “Our first game felt like forever ago, and I can’t believe that this is almost over.” 

As the regular season came down to its last game, Evanston faced Vernon Hills in Beardsley Gym. The Kits looked playoff-ready as they wasted no time by defeating the Cougars in a 74-28, on the backs of seniors Kailey Starks and Zuri Ransom, who each finished with 22 points to end their regular season.

Evanston (12-15, 6-4 CSL South) leaped out quickly against the Cougars (9-20, 6-4 CSL North). A scoop-and-score from senior Arianna Milam-Pryor encapsulated the intensity from the Kits in the first, as they lept out to a 21-9 lead over Vernon Hills. The second featured much of the same, as Evanston’s tight defense kept the Cougar offense contained for another quarter, with the Kits going into half up, 32-19.

For head coach Brittanny Johnson, this non-conference matchup was about getting Evanston into a playoff mindset—namely, focusing on the particular strengths and weaknesses of an opponent.

“[At halftime] we talked about how at this point we have had 29, 28 games, so it’s not even about showing us what we can do.” stated Johnson. “It’s really about focusing on the things they can do well.”

Out of half, Evanston upped their defensive intensity, sparking a dominant 27-2 third quarter. Starks could be heard as the “D-up” chants rang through Beardsley as the Kits put on a defensive clinic.

“My goal this entire season has been to be heard from across the court,” joked Starks. “The chants motivate me, so I’ve been trying to be the loudest to motivate my teammates.”

To cap off the third, Ransom hit a last-second three-pointer, giving Evanston a 59-21 lead that would prove insurmountable.

“We had a slower first half, but after the halftime talk, we played more aggressively, getting more steals and blocks,” remarked Ransom. “We took advantage of their defense and kept playing.”

The fourth featured much of the same as Evanston’s attention could turn to the playoffs. The Kits, ranked No. 4 in their regional, will face off against No. 14 Niles North (8-17, 1-9, CNL) on Monday, Feb. 12. For Evanston, at this point in the year, the team’s connectivity can lead to strong play on the court. 

“It’s important that you do team building in these moments and cut down on practice time.” says Johnson. “We have team dinners, I think we have a pretty cohesive team. Our chemistry is really good. It’s about everyone’s body being right and mentally ready to go.”

For Starks and Ransom, close to four years to the day from their varsity debuts, the duo combined for 44 points on the night in what was their last regular season game. But Ransom’s sights are set on something bigger.

“We haven’t gotten past regionals since I’ve been here,” said Ransom. “I’m hoping to get to state; it’s always the goal. We just have to keep in mind that it’ll be win or go home on [Monday] against Niles North.”

The Kits will be favorites on Monday but will have to deal with playing what is essentially a road game to kick off their playoff run at 6 p.m. that night.

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Eva Sondgeroth, Assistant Sports Editor
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