The Evanston-New Trier rivalry was on center stage Feb. 15 as the #5 Wildkits took on the #20 Trevians before a raucous mostly pro-Evanston crowd of over 6,000 at Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Even though the Wildkits wrapped up the Central Suburban league title with last week’s win over Waukegan, last Friday night’s showdown with rival New Trier had all the pre-game buzz of a playoff contest.

In the first meeting between these teams on Jan. 12, the Wildkits’ balanced scoring and clutch free throws enabled them to hold on for a 7-point win. This time, however, it was the Trevians’ poise in the final period that withstood a Wildkit rally, improving their record to 17-6 overall, 7-3 in the CSL South, while Evanston fell to 23-3, 9-1.

Evanston came out firing in the first quarter, led by senior guard Steven Rudnicki, who finished with 10 points. The Wildkits seemed to feed off the crowd, which roared as sophomore guard Ryan Frazier hit a driving lay-up to put his team up five as the quarter came to a close.

But the Wildkits came out cold to start the second period and were held scoreless for nearly seven minutes until senior center Travis Clark, who finished with 10 points, got a bucket inside. New Trier took advantage of Evanston’s aggressive defense, consistently finding open shooters who connected on three three-pointers in the period to tie the score at 26 heading into halftime.

A halftime presentation honored the 1968 ETHS boys basketball state championship team and the Fellowship of Afro-American Men (F.A.A.M.) youth basketball program, which was founded in 1968 to fill a void in sports and recreational opportunities after School District 65 budget cuts. The ETHS PomKits, who finished 6th at the 2008 UDA National Dance Team Championships, performed an electric routine during the break and encouraged the crowd’s fervor.

In the third quarter, Trevian sophomore Alex Rossi scored five of his 15 points and had a pair of assists to senior forward Tim McCrary. But Evanston tied the score at the end of the period when junior Eric Dortch scored off the glass as he tumbled out of bounds.

New Trier opened the final quarter with a pair of baskets underneath by McCrary and senior forward James Clark, who was returning from a sprained ankle he suffered last week against Lincoln Park. From there, Trevian senior Peter Boehm took over, slicing through the Evanston defense to put the Trevians up six with 4:25 to play. On the ensuing New Trier possession, Boehm again cut through the defense to deliver a perfect pass to Clark who scored and was fouled. He connected on the free throw to push the lead to nine.

Evanston made a late run sparked by NU baseball commit Zach Morton, who led the Wildkits with 15 points. Morton’s 3-pointer from the corner cut the Trevians’ lead to 55-50 with just over a minute to play. It was too little too late, however, as the Trevians’ solid free-throw shooting withstood the late charge and sealed the upset.

The Wildkits will travel to Highland Park on Feb. 20 before regional playoffs begin.