After finishing a tough Proviso West Holiday Tournament, Coach Bobby Locke knew his team had to have a quick turnaround before they faced two big conference foes in Glenbrook South and Waukegan in the next two weeks. Also on the Kits’ schedule were St. Joseph’s at home and Stevenson on the road.
The Kits first went into the Titan Dome to face GBS and the Division I recruit and Notre Dame-bound big man Jack Cooley. With the Kits varsity girls winning earlier in the night, Evanston fans had a good feeling about what was to come.
The start of the game set the tone for entire game. Each team traded baskets up and down the floor. No team had a clear advantage, but one thing was evident: Evanston had no answer for Cooley and his size down low.
From the get-go, Cooley was grabbing rebounds, putting up easy shots and consistently blocking Evanston’s shots; he nearly had a triple-double in the first-half alone. But on the way to halftime, Evanston did a good job in creating outside shots and keeping the ball away from Cooley. The Kits eventually took a 32-31 lead into the half.
The second half was a different story as Cooley started to get less touches and began to give the ball to his teammates, including Ryan Hopkins who had 15 points, all of which were three-pointers.
But the Kits answered with three-pointers of their own, starting with Garrett Jones, who had 15 points and hit some deep three-point shots late in the second half. Ryan Frazier-Chambers contributed with some great inside drives, scoring 17 points overall. Evanston took a 66-62 lead, when Kits senior Isiah Irving, who scored 20 points, buried two free throws. Then Cooley went to the line after a three-pointer by the Titans and dropped one of two shots to force an overtime. The Titans dominated in the overtime, winning 81-71.
The next night, Evanston stayed home to face St. Joe’s and legendary coach Gene Pingatore, who was hoping to tie the IHSA career coaching wins record, coming into the game with a total of 825 wins since his start at St. Joe’s in 1969.
Again the opponent’s big man – 6-foot, 8 inch UIC recruit Lewis Green – was the biggest problem for Evanston.
The Kits struggled early on the inside and were down by 10 at the half. Evanston, however, showed a lot of fight in the second half, as they opened the third quarter with a quick run and pulled to within two points.
But after that, the Chargers went on a 14-2 run of their own and eventually won 69-58. Green had a career high 29 points, 8 blocks and 14 rebounds for St. Joes, while Garrett Jones led the Kits with 15 points.
The next week Evanston faced another Division I recruit and Illinois-bound big man in Jereme Richmond and the Waukegan Bulldogs. The Kits stayed with the Bulldogs throughout the first quarter, but the turning point occurred when Richmond hit some wide-open deep three-pointers, putting the Bulldogs up by seven.
The Bulldogs had a big lead at the half and built on it in the third quarter, obtaining most of their points off the fast break and many easy lay-ups. Colin Nickerson had most of the easy shots and led the Bulldogs with 20 points. Richmond did not have the break-out game everybody thought he would have, scoring 14 points in the 80-55 big conference win. Garrett Jones led once again led Evanston, with 17 points.
Evanston had some relief the next night when they went to Lincolnshire to face Stevenson. The Kits once again stayed with their opponents in the first quarter, going back and forth with the leads. As the game progressed, however, the Kits were able to steal the ball, force travels and force the Patriots into taking bad shots.
Eric Dortch,who played only one minute against St. Joe’s, had 11 points in the first quarter and 17 overall in a big 52-45 win over Stevenson, a win that will hopefully put Evanston back on track with 10 games left in the season.
Next up for Evanston are two home games against Maine South and Thornwood. After that they go up against New Trier again at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Jan. 30. The next day they go on the road to face Rich Central.