Girls Basketball: Zion-Benton gets off to winning start over EvanstonZion's Morgan Franklin (left) shoots one as Evanston's Gabrielle Nottage defends during their basketball game at Deerfield. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 17, 2011 8:51PM
Zion-Benton opened its girls basketball season on Thursday with a 40-29 victory over Evanston on Day 1 of the Deerfield tournament.
The Zee-Bees will face Waukegan at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, followed by Evanston’s game at 6 against Niles West, which features Notre Dame-bound guard Jewel Loyd.
Thursday’s contest was a mismatch. It was 23-6 at halftime as Zion, which finished second in last year’s state tournament, was led by returning center Octavia Crump (15 points, 8 rebounds) and returning guard Sam Rodriguez (6 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals). Morgan Franklin, a reserve on last year’s team, had a half-dozen points.
Evanston was led in coring by sophomore Sierra Clayborn with 15 points. She was 4-of-13 from behind the arc, and had 11 of her points in the third quarter.
Alecia Cooley, a 6-2 junior center, had nine points and 13 boards for the Wildkits.
“We have a lot to learn from this game,” said Zion coach Tanya Johnson. “When we get back to practice, there are a lot of things we have to clean up.
“It’s going to be a work in progress all season. We’re still trying how to utilize our strengths and hide our weaknesses.”
Zion’s other two starters were sophomore guard Shania Thompson and senior forward Jessica Williams.
Evanston first-year coach Elliot Whitefield saw his team score 17 points in the third quarter and 12 total in the other three.
“We knew with their experience and the success they had last year, it was going to be a tough opening game,” he said. “The team didn’t let me down at all. They came back and fought.
“At halftime, they had two choices — put down their heads and get blown out or battle back.”
Evanston got within eight points in the third quarter, but that was it.
In the first game at Deerfield, Lake Forest beat Waukegan 40-34.
Mary Striedl scored 15 points for the winners, while Syerra Cunningham had 18 points before fouling out for the Bulldogs.