Kit girls bury Niles North, advance to regional finals
Tyler Mayne’s role has changed from starter to backup for the Evanston girls basketball team this season.
But the senior guard did a little bit of everything Wednesday night at the Class 4A Glenbrook North Regional tournament.
Mayne filled the stat sheet with a game-high 18 points and added 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists as the Wildkits scored a 76-29 running clock victory over Niles North in the semifinal round of the regional.
Evanston will take a 22-6 record into Friday’s championship game against the host Spartans. Glenbrook North eliminated Chicago Taft by a 44-37 margin in Wednesday’s other semifinal matchup.
Niles North (7-24) chalked up exactly as many turnovers as points in the lopsided loss. Evanston led 43-6 at halftime as the Kit starters barely worked up a sweat, allowing key reserves like Mayne one more opportunity to shine.
She converted 8-of-14 field goal attempts and has definitely given the Wildkits a boost after missing the first half of the season due to illness. Sophomore Lola Lesmond added 14 points and Amari Mays netted 9 off the bench for the winners, who needed a confidence boost for some individuals --- if not the entire squad --- after dropping 4 of their last 5 regular season games.
The ever-optimistic Mayne is one of those players who still needed a boost, according to ETHS head coach Brittanny Johnson.
“Since she had that great game against New Trier, she hasn’t played her best, and I know she’s been frustrated because of it,” said Johnson. “If I had to pick someone who needed a boost tonight, it was Tyler. She’s told me countless times this year that even though she started all the time last year, she knew that her role had changed, and she just wants to do whatever she can to help the team win.
“She’s in a very different role for us this year. She and Kayla (Henning) are the players with the most experience on this team, and in this (postseason) run we know she’s someone we’re going to have to lean on.
“Tonight was a feel-good game for everyone, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Evanston’s defensive focus was responsible for 18 Viking turnovers in the first half. After a scoop shot by Sa-lah Martinez tied the score at 2-2 in the first minute of play, Evanston reeled off 18 straight points and the Vikings only netted one more field goal (by Martinez again) the rest of the first half.
Johnson promoted 3 players ---sophomore Maya Wallace and freshmen Sofia Rocca and Ciara Gentle --- to the varsity for postseason play, and both Rocca and Gentle played extensive minutes and netted their first varsity points.
Gentle, a 6-foot-4 freshman who is the younger sister of all-conference post player Ambrea Gentle, sank a free throw with 12 seconds left in the third quarter and opened the scoring for ETHS in the fourth quarter with a putback of her own missed shot.
Rocca, the daughter of ETHS Hall-of-Famer Mason Rocca, scored from close range midway through the running clock fourth quarter on a feed from Ellie Oif. Wallace didn’t score but did pick up an assist on Evanston’s last bucket, a fast-break by Mays.
All 3 underclassmen have practiced with the varsity at various points during the regular season and figure to play bigger roles in the future with normal improvement in their respective games.
“It was nice to see the JV and freshman girls doing well tonight,” Johnson noted. “The freshman team really turned the corner after the (Christmas) break. From Day 1 those younger girls have really impressed me with their effort, their willingness to go hard, accept coaching and get better.
“We’ve had the younger girls up to practice with us in the past, to get them an idea of what varsity basketball is like. But this is the first year I couldn’t tell they were underclassmen, and I felt confident that I could bring them up at the end of the season. And the older kids have been great about it and have really supported them.”