Evanston eliminates Spartans from girls basketball playoffs
The high school basketball careers of six Glenbrook North girls ended Feb. 18 at the Class 4A Evanston regional final.
The host Wildkits won 45-34, defeating the Spartans for the third time this season.
"We've just been working so hard all year to play together as a team. I think we did all the right things. It just wasn't our day," said an emotional Brooke Blumenfeld, who scored 9 points and grabbed 8 rebounds before fouling out with just under three minutes left in the game.
"I love my team and I'm so proud of them, and I can't wait to see what they do in the future," said 1,000-point scorer Blumenfeld, headed to play basketball at Northern Illinois University.
Coach Nick Capalbo, Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame assistant Steve Weissenstein and Glenbrook North (19-10) will move forward without Blumenfeld and fellow seniors Abby Burnham, Jaden De Guzman, Kate Rassin, Sarah Ryan and Deirdre McMahon, who came off the bench late to grab a rebound.
"I'm very passionate about basketball, and knowing the fact that this night was my last-ever high school basketball game, I gave it my all. I obviously could have done better, but I love basketball and GBN's always going to be in my heart," said De Guzman, who seeks to become a basketball manager at the University of Illinois.
The Spartans' point guard looked to be the quickest player on the court at Evanston, taking her defenders off the ball for a team-high 14 points.
Yet No. 3 seed Evanston (19-9), led by quality sophomore Zuri Ransom's game-high 19 points, 7 rebounds and 5 steals, hit No. 6 seed Glenbrook North with a full-court press that produced 21 Spartans turnovers, 9 in the first quarter.
"That's a team I respect a lot," said Evanston coach Brittany Johnson. "I think they're really well-coached, I think Brooke is a phenomenal player, even their point guard, Jaden, played really well for them today. So I know that's tough for them, their seniors to go out that way.
"But our respect for them is (why) we defended them the way we did. We understood what we needed to do to be successful, and it worked in our favor."
Despite Evanston's pressure Glenbrook North rallied from a 12-8 deficit after one quarter to what appeared to be a 20-17 halftime lead. Blumenfeld scored 6 of her 9 points in the quarter and the Spartans limited Evanston to 2-of-13 shooting over those 8 minutes.
When the teams returned after halftime, however, the scoreboard had Glenbrook North leading 19-17, adjusted due to a discrepancy between the official score book and the scoreboard.
In the long run that point may not have meant much, but after the game Capalbo said it took the Spartans down a notch figuratively as well as literally.
"You come into the game now and that's the first thing that happens before the game starts, since our girls see that they're taking (a point) off," he said.
"Now it's a 2-point game, and they score a basket. You know, momentum shifts in those type of games, and we need every point that we can get when we play that team," Capalbo said.
Evanston's press again hampered Glenbrook North to start the second half, forcing 2 turnovers in 3 possessions as the Wildkits reclaimed a 23-19 lead.
Glenbrook North still had trouble against the full-court pressure, but De Guzman hit a 3 and Alexis Myers made a pair of free throws at 2:31 of the third quarter for a 24-23 Spartans lead. It would be their last.
Two Ransom free throws and Kailey Starks' baseline bucket gave Evanston a 27-24 lead entering the fourth quarter.
"Losing would have been terrible, so we just had to get this dub," said the 5-foot-10 Ransom. "As my very first regional championship game I've ever played in my high school career, I wanted this dub badly, and I'm glad my team was able to pull it through. I'm so happy."
Fighting a cramp in her right calf, Ransom paced a 36-27 lead Evanston held when Blumenfeld got called for a fifth foul with 2:56 left to play.
"It's hard to score the basketball without Brooke in the game," Capalbo said.
Playing what her coach called her best game of the season, De Guzman tried to take up the scoring mantle, but a lead Evanston built to 40-27 was too much.
"I'm not satisfied but it is what it is," De Guzman said. "I have a lot of respect for Evanston, I have a lot of friends on that team, and I just wish them the best of luck for their basketball careers."
It was the second time in three years Evanston has defeated Glenbrook North in a regional final. The COVID-19 pandemic erased the 2021 postseason.
"In the three years (Capalbo and Weissenstein have) been together now, it's two regional championships and we just haven't gotten over the hump yet," Capalbo said.
"We're going to get there, I promise we're going to get there in the next couple years. But we're going to miss our seniors, for sure."
Ransom was unable to play in the Glenbrook South sectional semifinal, with a leg injury. The Wildkits fell 43-41 to Maine South.