After starting off the season at the Mundelein Thanksgiving Tournament with a 5-0 record, expectations were high for a talented Evanston basketball squad. But the last two weeks showed those expectations may have been too high. The Kits lost four straight contests after the blazing start, and three of those losses were against conference opponents.
The first of their disappointing string of losses was against Maine South on Dec. 8, which was their first conference showdown of the season. From the start Maine South slowly took control by capitalizing on many first quarter mishaps by the Kits. After a few three-pointers by the Hawks, Evanston was quickly down 10-2 in the first period. Maine South took that momentum into the second quarter and led 22-16 by the half in an offensive struggle for both teams. In the third quarter, Evanston was unable to make a single point for a five minute stretch, and the Hawks were able to extend their lead to 37-22 going into the fourth period.
The final quarter looked bright for the Kits as they stepped up on both sides of the ball and created turnovers that turned into points. The Kits had a 13-2 run, to decrease their deficit to only 4 points. But in the closing minutes Evanston gave the ball up on costly turnovers, and the Hawks hit some key free throws to guide them to a victory and the Kits to their first loss of the season. ETHS junior guard Garrett Jones kept up his high scoring with 24 points to lead Evanston in their 46-42 loss.
Although the team lacked focus, Coach Bobby Locke believed his team was just trying to still find themselves.
On Dec. 11, the team took those opening jitters to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Northwestern University’s campus to take on the New Trier Trevians for the first time. It was a struggle for both teams to score in the first half, as both teams stepped up the defense and neither team shot well from the field. The Trevians turned the ball over 10 times in the first half. It was a see-saw battle through the first two quarters and Evanston eventually went into the break up 21-20.
Senior New Trier guard Alex Rossi was the focus of a lot of attention due his recent commitment to the University of California and has been a thorn in the Kits’ side ever since he joined the Trevians. In the first half he was contained to scoring 1 point, with Evanston doing a great job containing him. But when the third quarter started, Rossi broke loose. With four minutes remaining in the quarter, he slammed home a dunk and rejuvenated the Trevian crowd. Garrett Jones responded with a three-pointer at the other end. The Trevians pulled to within 5 points going into the fourth quarter.
Evanston tried to buckle the Trevians with full-court pressure, but it failed as New Trier turned the ball over only twice in the period. The Kits held their lead for a while, but after a pair of three-pointers by Rossi to put the Trevians up by one, the Trevians never looked back. They converted 11-of-12 free throws to preserve their lead, and defeated Evanston in the first rivalry match of the season, 54-50.
After two tough losses in a week, Evanston went to Skokie on Dec. 18to take on Niles West. The Wolves’ little known senior guard Boris Cayemitte scored a career-high 27 points, 16 of them from the free throw line; and he led the Wolves to a win and Evanston’s third straight conference loss and third overall. Junior James Farr led Evanston with 16 points.
The next day, the Kits took on Stevenson at home, and the Beardsley crowd did not enjoy what they saw. Patriots’ senior Nate Johnson scored a game high 26 points along with 16 rebounds to lead a disappointing loss for the Kits, 76-52.
Evanston will now take part in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, first taking on Proviso East on Saturday, and then either Foreman or Morton on Monday. The tournament ends next Wednesday. The Kits have lost four straight and will hope this holiday break will give them time to get back to their winning ways.