Going into the holiday week and one of the hardest tournaments in the state, Coach Locke’s Wildkits seemed confident after their big conference win over Niles West on Dec. 19. It turned out, though, the Kits did not get as much holiday cheer as they expected. They lost their first two games in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament against St. Patrick and Thornton Fractional North, but squeaked out an overtime win against New Trier.
The Kits were underdogs in their first match-up against St. Patrick, as St. Pats came in with a 7-1 record and a very well-balanced attack led by guard Tim Traversa. The first period was back and forth between the teams; the quarter ended with the teams tied at 14. Evanston took a small 27-25 lead into the half, with the highlight being Mike Levine’s 3-point shot, the Kits only 3-pointer in the game.
By the end of the third quarter, Evanston appeared to be about to take control of the game, ending the period up by 8 points, having contained an impressive St. Patrick offense. The quarter’s offense for Evanston mostly consisted of fast break points and trips to the free-throw line, but it would be missed free throws that hurt the Kits throughout the game.
In the final period, St. Patrick jumped all over Evanston early on and quickly cut the lead down to 2 points in less than two minutes. After a 3-pointer by Michael Frey, St. Patrick took a 1-point lead. From then on, the teams traded baskets up and down the court. With 15 seconds left in the game, ETHS junior Ryan Frazier-Chambers hit a jump shot to tie the game at 58-58. St. Patrick came out of a huddle at speed, and guard Curtis Gilmore put up a lay-up attempt that was blocked by Josh Perryman. Gilmore, however, was able to pick up the ball, and got an easy basket with only five seconds left. After missing a half-court heave, Evanston lost the game 60-58, and the Kits were left to look at some painful stats.
In practice every day, Coach Locke stresses the importance of making free throws and how they can win or lose 10 games a season. This point became clear in the Kits’ 2-point loss to St. Pat’s; the Kits shot 53 percent from the line, missing 13 shots. They were also cold from the 3-point line, going 1-6 from deep and 41 percent from the field altogether. The leading scorer for Evanston was Frazier-Chambers, with a particularly high 27 points.
The next day, Evanston faced Thornton Fractional North. The Kits fell fast in the game, down 13 at the half. It did not get any better for the Kits, who might have been drained from the night before. “I wasn’t expecting a bad start like that,” Coach Locke said. “I guess last night took more out of us than I thought it would. This is not a good tournament to be in when you’re a young team, because you’re going to take some lumps.” Eric Dortch stood out for Evanston, scoring 19 points and pulling down 5 rebounds. The Kits lost 59-43.
The Kits did get a little breath of fresh air when they faced off against New Trier, also having a tough time in this tournament. Early on it looked like the Trevians were going to beat the Kits as they had earlier in the month, but Evanston fought back. The Kits tied the game by the end of regulation play and forced the game into overtime. Evanston took over late in the overtime period and got some revenge by beating the Trevians 65-60. The Kits were led by a new addition to the team, senior guard Isiah Irving, who scored 22 points.
The Kits will go on the road to face Glenbrook South on Friday, and face St. Joseph at home the next day. They go to Waukegan on Jan. 16 to face the top-10-ranked Bulldogs.