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The Wildkits boys basketball team struggled early in their first game of the new year, but the Wildkits earned a victory over the Stevenson Spartans 64-48 on Jan. 5. With the win, Evanston improves their home record to 4-0.

The game was close in the first half, with Evanston leading by one point as the teams headed into the locker room for halftime. Senior guard Stephen Rudnicki commended Stevenson’s play against the Wildkits’ zone defense.

“They were a real good passing team,” Rudnicki said. “They would pass the ball into the middle of our zone and get easy shots inside the paint. We made a halftime adjustment so that they could not get the ball into the middle of our zone as easily as they did in the first half, and it worked.”

Rudnicki posted a team-high 20 points, shooting four of six from behind the arc. His final three-point bucket came late in the fourth quarter, helping the Wildkits run away with the win in the final minutes. Freshman guard Garret Jones also had a fine game, contributing 11 points off the bench for coach Bobby Locke.

Evanston was playing its fourth straight game without senior big-man Travis Clark, who is nursing a bad ankle. “It has been really tough playing without Travis,” Rudnicki said. “He has been so valuable to this team the whole season, and we definitely miss him.”

A number of players have had to step up in his absence. “We have a lot of guys who are not used to playing as much as they’re playing, but as their minutes build, so does their confidence,” Rudnicki said.

ETHS athletic director Chris Livatino is pleased with how the team is performing this season. “Everyone is really excited about the way the boys are playing right now. They are a great group of kids and work hard on the court and in school as well,” he said. “They are really quality kids and they play as a true team.”

After their game last night at St. Joseph’s, the Kits will look ahead to Friday’s pivotal match-up against New Trier. The rivalry games against the Trevians are always the most highly anticipated of the season, but their first clash takes on added significance because both teams are ranked among the Top 10 in the state.

“It’s the most fun I have all year,” Rudnicki said of playing the Trevians. “The atmosphere and the setting are always amazing, and we will be very excited to play that game.”

Adding to the excitement will be the large crowd expected for the game, which will be played at Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena. The game will also be crucial in deciding which of the two teams will win the Central Suburban South Conference.

“One of our goals is to go undefeated in the conference, so this first game against them is really going to be huge,” senior guard Zack Morten said. “They are ranked and we are ranked, so the stakes could not be much higher for this game.”

The boys’ tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 11 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Their game follows the match-up between the girls’ varsity teams, which begins at 6 p.m.