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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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STOP! In the name of safety
STOP! In the name of safety
Izabella Paracuelles, Feature Editor • March 15, 2024
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Girls basketball trounces Vikings in opening round of playoffs

Victory sets up with regional final matchup against Glenbrook North on Thursday
Senior+Kailey+Starks+posted+18+points+in+Evanstons+rout+of+Niles+North+on+Monday.
Alexis Rogers
Senior Kailey Starks posted 18 points in Evanston’s rout of Niles North on Monday.

Heading into the 2023-24 playoff run, head coach Brittanny Johnson knew not to take any game lightly. As the team battled back within the last few games of the regular season to secure a winning conference record, they earned a No. 4 seed entering the first round. After four quarters of dominating play, the Kits left Niles North’s court one step further in the state series.

“Our energy was really good,” says Johnson. “As a coach, you get nervous in the playoffs. We were looking at Niles North’s record, and I told [the team] that anything can happen in the playoffs. You have to come out with the right mindset, the right effort. It was good to see, I think we’re on the right track.”

Evanston took the lead a minute into Monday’s regional semifinal and held that lead until final time. The 69-28 victory over Niles North was secured by an offensively outstanding first half and a second half that saw many of the team’s younger players coming off the bench.

Senior Kailey Starks netted 16 points in the first half, while 11 from fellow senior Zuri Ransom, nine from sophomore Havana Van Wyk, and eight from junior Jayla Warren rounded out the stellar performance. With drive after drive to the basket, the Kits (13-15, 6-4 CSL) denied the Vikings (8-19, 1-9 CSN) possession time and time again to hold a 50-16 lead at halftime. From there, Evanston only had to hunker down and protect the lead.

“We just trusted each other,” says Johnson. “We didn’t reach, just trusted in our athleticism. It was great to see that man-to-man full-court could be a defense that works for us. We didn’t have to go trapping and pressing—we could just trust in ourselves, our athletic ability, and our teammates. We did a really good job of keeping them off the glass.”

Steals and rebounds proved to be instrumental in the Kits’ quick takedown of the Vikings. With assist-heavy offense and aggressive defense, Evanston kept Niles North from scoring for three and a half straight minutes in the beginning of the second quarter and five straight minutes in the beginning of the third. In the fourth quarter, the Vikings netted just four points.

“We were good at anticipating their passes,” says Van Wyk. “After watching film and training, we were very good at keeping pressure on them and pressuring the ball. If there was a pass we knew that we could try and get there before them.”

When it came to taking a shot, the Kits weren’t afraid to make the extra pass, utilizing synchronized plays and bringing underclassmen to the court to carry on the high-energy game. 

“Everyone was ready to shoot. We were hungry for a win,” reflects Starks. “We were really unselfish, and I want to make sure that we carry that into the next playoff game.”

On Thursday, Feb. 15, the Kits face Glenbrook North, who dominated over Leyden on Feb. 12, in the regional final. The match will take place at 7 p.m. at Niles North High School. Evanston and GBN clashed twice during the regular season, with each team taking a victory on the road. The Kits’ first match with the Spartans saw Evanston taking a decisive 57-50 victory, while in the second—a game that Evanston played without Ransom—the Kits fell short, 48-45.

“[GBN is] such a well coached team, you have to really expect the unexpected,” says Johnson. “They always come with something different. We’ve played them a lot in the playoffs in my time here. I think they’re hungry for a win. We are too. It’s gonna be a great game.”

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Alexis Rogers, Sports Feature Editor
Eva Sondgeroth, Assistant Sports Editor
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