Though sloppy at times, Friday night’s matchup between the #5 Simeon Lady Wolverines and the #2 Evanston Wildkits surpassed early season expectations.
In a game that saw eight lead changes, and no leads greater than six points, a late Evanston run sealed the 54-48 victory for an impressive non-conference win for the Wildkits.
“I was kind of nervous about playing them so early, and I’m sure Johnny [Davenport] was too,” said Evanston head coach Brittanny Johnson. “It’s a good start, I really wanted to challenge this team with the schedule that we put together, so we’re excited.”
Leading the charge on both ends of the floor for Evanston was 6’3” senior center Ambrea Gentle.
Gentle made her presence felt early against a very tall Simeon front line with the first six points of the contest, while also causing problems for Simeon’s post players before getting into foul trouble.
“Ambrea was a kid that came in and couldn’t even catch the ball as a freshman,” said Johnson. “Every year she’s gotten better and willed herself into becoming a D1 prospect. I’m really proud of her, because she’s so big and strong, she’s had to learn how to battle a lot.”
An early timeout by Simeon coach Johnny Davenport quickly turned the tables, as the extended half court Simeon pressure forced turnovers to turn the tide of the contest.
Leading the way for the Wolverines Aneesah Morrow, who had to take upon an even bigger role with Khaniah Gardner being unavailable.
The junior eventually finished with an incredible stat line of 20 points, 18 rebounds and five steals, and despite the Evanston posts and even guards giving her trouble at times, her first half double-double was enough for Simeon to take a 27-21 lead into the half.
“Morrow is incredible, I’ve known her since she was basically a baby and she would always be in the gym working,” said Johnson. “She’s one of the best players we will play all year and it was a team effort. We just felt like either way it went she was going to bully us so we felt if we put someone quicker and smaller on her it would make it tougher for the passes to go into her and I think it worked.”
Trailing at half, and unable to find any consistency on the offensive end, Coach Johnson and the rest of the Wildkits turned to junior Lola Lesmond for a spark.
Lesmond scored all of her team high 10 points in the third quarter, drilling two threes, finding the open space in transition and even impacting the game on the defensive end with two blocks. Lesmond, who played sporadically as a freshman has come a long way to become an important piece for this years Wildkit squad.
Johnson said: “She has put in so much work. She’s always been a very hard worker but I think the work she put in the offseason she looks really, really good and we noticed that the first day she came back.”
The final frame saw both teams scrap for every possession and draw level with each other at 40 and 44.
The difference in the quarter and eventually the game was courtesy of Evanston junior guard Rashele Olatunbosun, who also scored 10 points in an extremely balanced Evanston attack where all the Evanston starters had at lead six points, and Jayla Turchin came through with eight points off the bench.
“Last year I felt we were really one sided scoring wise so we really want that type of stat line where everybody is scoring, everybody is contributing, we’re getting the chance to play a lot of players, it’s just a great team win.”
Morrow did her best to fight back converted on a pair of free throws to narrow the deficit to 50-48, but Evanston scored the last four points of the contest in the final minute to escape with the 54-48 win.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier for either team as Evanston will next face CSL South foe Niles West on Monday before facing three-time Wisconsin state champ Beaver Dam at Fremd, while Simeon will return to the Northshore to face Loyola on Sunday night at 7:00 PM.