A 27-point victory over the Niles North Vikings on senior night may have been just what the doctor ordered for the now 19-7 Wildkits, but arguably more important was the return of 6’2” Ambrea Gentle to Evanston’s lineup.
Gentle, who was sidelined for close to eight weeks due to a broken hand suffered in gym class, had been the team’s leading scorer and rebounder before her injury. The Wildkits went 9-2 before Gentle was hurt and had gone 9-5 without her in the rotation.
Gentle scored seven points in her return after coming off the bench for the first time this season.
“It was great,” coach Britranny Johnson said. “We’re going to work her back slowly, but just seeing her be able to run up and down, she’s a player we thought we may lose for the entire season. We’re just really excited to have her back.”
The return of Gentle comes at almost the perfect time since she can play the last few regular season games before the IHSA playoffs.
“It’s huge, trying to bring her and Delaney (Brooks) back in the playoffs would have been really hard so I’m happy that they got the three games to get their feet back under them. It’s perfect timing for us.”
Brooks, who has struggled with knee problems for most of the season, was one of the five seniors who played their last game at Beardsley Gym against the Vikings. The senior class has been one of the best in school history with a four year win loss record of 89-26.
“We’ve had great seniors,” Johnson said. “For them to be able to play as much as they did (all five seniors started) and contribute as much as they did was great.”
All of the seniors scored and a season high 12 Kits put points on the board. Junior guard Tyler Mayne led the effort with 10 points and seniors SyAnn Holmes and Amena Alexander added nine and eight respectively.
“It was the first time we really shared the ball and made the extra pass,” Johnson said. “I keep telling [my team] I want to keep going up as we enter the playoffs.”
The playoffs, for Evanston, start on Tuesday February 12 at the Maine South regional against the winner of the game between Leyden and Lake View. The Kits got the third seed in the sectional that will be held at Evanston, behind Loyola and Maine West, the teams who have accounted for three of the teams seven losses, and one spot in front of New Trier.
Against Niles North, Evanston was only up by seven points at halftime but outscored the Vikings 35-15 in the second half.