After beating Maine West on Feb. 25 in the regular season finale, the Evanston Township High School boys’ basketball team looked to carry the momentum of that victory into the IHSA Class 4A Maine East Regional. The number-three-seeded Wildkits were able to do just that, beating Foreman on March 4 in the regional semifinals 66-48.
Junior Elijah Henry and senior Will Jones led the Kits in that game. Henry scored 16 points and had eight rebounds; Jones chipped in 14 points and two steals. With the victory, the Kits improved to 20-8 overall and advanced to the regional championship game on March 7 against Notre Dame, a team the Kits defeated 50-38 on Nov. 26 in the second game of the season.
Against the Dons, the Kits prevailed 52-45 to capture the regional title for the second time in three years. Leading the Kits’ attack was Jones, who scored 17 points. Senior Marcus Johnson added 11 points and 6 rebounds.
"I thought we came out aggressive, and we continued to play aggressive for most of the game. I thought we did a good job defensively stopping their best players, "said Coach Mike Ellis. "… [D]efensively we were solid for most of the night – and at this time of the year in the playoffs, you have to be solid on defense."
Regarding Jones’ performance, Ellis said, "Will stepped up and made a lot of big shots for us and converted at the free throw line. His buckets all came at opportune times." The Coach added, "Will did a great job of picking the right time to be aggressive at the basket and make plays. So I think Will, at this time of year, being a senior and one of the leaders of the team, he [was] looking to play his best for us to move on and advance."
Coach Ellis said the Regionals victory tasted even better because the Kits, who improved to 21-8 overall, were unable to capture a tournament title during the regular season. He said, "It was good to see our guys win the Regional title. All season long they’ve played well and won over 20 games. We were not able to secure a [tournament] title at Thanksgiving, Christmas or at the Conference championship, so it is well-deserved. … I am real proud of those guys for being able to step up to the challenge and win a Regional championship."
After this, the Kits were set to take on Central Suburban League South foe the Maine South Hawks in the Class 4A Maine South Sectional semifinals on March 12, the day this paper went to press. (Results can be found on The RoundTable online, EvanstonRoundTable.com)
The Hawks, who have won the Conference title two years in a row, beat the Kits twice this season. Coach Ellis said that for the Kits to come out with a victory will be a matter of execution.
"We have to be focused and recognize situations when they present themselves. Maine South is a well-coached team, and it is very hard to score against [their 2-3 matchup zone] defense," said the coach. "So we just have to be ready to knock in shots when we are open and attack the boards. They are a great rebounding team, well-rounded in all facets of the game."
If the Kits have – and by this time, the die has been cast – made the third time a charm and beat the Hawks, they will play either archrival New Trier or Loyola on March 14 for the Sectional title.
The winner of the Sectionals will play the Marist Sectionals winner on March 18 in the Chicago State Supersectional.