After a close, yet important, season opening win against Lakes High School two weeks ago, the Wildkits did not know it would be the start of a great week for them in the Mundelein Thanksgiving Tournament. Evanston had a lot to be thankful for after going undefeated in that tournament and entering the regular season with a 5-0 record.
One thing the Kits should be thankful for is the fantastic play by junior guard Garrett Jones, who almost single-handedly took over in their match-up against Mundelein High School on Nov. 23. Jones, who had scored 25 points the day before against Lakes, made his presence felt early on and had to stay sharp the entire game as Mundelein almost matched the Kits point for point.
The Mustangs were ranked number 20 in the state and had a high-powered offense. Coming into the game, the Wildkits knew they were up for an up-tempo match. Coach Bobby Locke knew his defense was ready for a big test, and Jones was ready to put the team on his back for the night. Evanston did a good job on defense for most of the first half. They contained the Mustangs senior guard Ben Brust, and took a 22 point lead into the third quarter. But the third period became a shoot out between Brust and Jones; Brust scored 15 in the quarter to help the Mustangs cut the lead to 9 going into the final period.
The final period brought out the clutch part of Jones’ game as he sunk free throws along with tough field goals to keep Evanston’s offense moving and solid. Brust did his best to bring his team back by scoring 21 in the quarter, but the Kits hung onto their lead throughout. Brust finished with 50 points in the losing effort while Jones finished with a school record 51 points in a high scoring and exciting 102-91 victory for Evanston.
Jones says he felt comfortable, but that night was a record for him.
“I started out hot and just kept going,” Jones said. “I don’t think I’ve ever scored that many points before. Maybe in eighth grade.”
Although Jones is expected to score a lot of points this season, Coach Locke told his team not to count on Jones scoring 50 points a game. “I told them that other guys would have to make plays and don’t expect 50 points from Garrett every night, even though he’s been carrying us,” said Coach Locke, “because other teams will try to take him away from us.”
After a short Thanksgiving, the Kits were back to work on Friday, Nov. 27, against Grayslake Central. The Kits played tough defense and had to fight a little harder to edge out the Rams, eventually winning 60-58. Jones picked up another 25 points in the effort.
The next day, the Kits took on Carmel Catholic and stepped up big time on defense, putting up a full-court pressure wall throughout the contest, and starting the game with an 8-1 run. The Kits never looked back as Jones did his job again on offense dropping 31 on Carmel to drive Evanston to their fourth straight win in the tourney, 92-59.
In the final game of the tournament on Nov. 30, Evanston took on Loyola Academy, which was determined to stop Jones and give the Kits a good fight, even though Evanston had already clinched first place in the tournament by winning game four. Loyola did their job in containing Jones, who went 2-for-7 from the field, but his clutch free throw shooting in the fourth quarter – going 6-for-6 from the charity stripe – helped the Kits rally to a 48-42 victory. Evanston only scored 26 points in the first three quarters, but outscored the Ramblers 22-14 in the fourth quarter to close out their win, and walking away with tournament honors.
The Kits were scheduled to play last night against Maine South after this paper went to press. Coming up for the Kits is their annual match up at Welsh-Ryan Arena on the Northwestern campus against their biggest rival, the New Trier Trevians, on Friday, Dec. 11. They then face off against Niles West in Skokie on Dec. 18, and take on Stevenson the next day at home.
If the Kits’ early play is any indication, Beardsley Gymnasium will be the place to be this winter season to see a top-form squad.