After losing four games in a row, three of which were conference games, Coach Bobby Locke’s squad knew they needed to bounce back over the holidays or their season could steadily decline going into January.
The Kits went to play in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament on Dec. 26 to try and gain some much-needed momentum, but they started the tournament the same way they have for the past three seasons – by losing in the opening round.
Evanston’s first foes were the Proviso East Pirates, who gave the Kits early fits. As the opening quarter came to a close it looked like the Pirates were in complete control of all fazes of the game, and they took a 17-7 lead into the second period. The Kits bounced back and cut the deficit mostly on the streak shooting by junior guard Garrett Jones and fellow junior Ryan Williams, bringing the Kits to within 31-23 going into the half.
In the third quarter, the Kits stepped up on defense holding the Pirates to only 7 points and pulling themselves to within 3 points into the final quarter. Evanston kept up their defensive force while doing a good job on offense, crashing for rebounds and getting points in the paint. Evanston did hold off the Pirates, but not enough to win in regulation, sending the game into overtime. In overtime, Evanston started hot, going on a 6-2 run; they looked like they were on pace to take the opening match, but the Pirates would not fade away. After a couple of costly traveling violations by the Kits, Proviso hit a 3-pointer as well as hitting free-throws for an 8-0 run to end a tough loss for Evanston, 59-55.
Although the Kits had many chances to win the game, Coach Locke felt their opportunity to win was taken away from them by the officiating.
“I’m disappointed because our kids played hard and put themselves in a position to win, but they didn’t get rewarded,” the Coach said. “In the last two minutes the referees decided who’s going to win the game. I don’t care what anyone says; we’re not coming back here next year, not after this.”
The Kits had to bounce back in their next game in the consolation round against a reeling Morton squad who had just lost by 35 points to Foreman. Evanston started slowly once again as the Mustangs led 20-13 after one quarter, and it looked like the Kits had that overtime loss still lingering in their minds. The teams both scored 12 in the second quarter, keeping Evanston’s deficit at 7 at halftime.
The Mustangs came out firing in the second half led by junior Mike Coleman, who was 7-14 from the field; all seven baskets were three-pointers, giving him 23 points for the night to lead Morton. Coleman along with Jeff Jarosz and Rocco Belcaster helped Morton move ahead by 15 going into the fourth quarter. The Kits picked up their offense by scoring 22 in the final period, but it proved to not be enough to pick up a victory as Evanston lost their sixth straight contest, 63-53.
This time Coach Locke said his team lacked focus. “Overall our effort is terrible. I’ve not been able to find five guys who want to give some type of effort at the same time. We’ve got to figure it out pretty soon, or this will become an ugly season.”
Evanston played their final game in the tournament in a loser’s bracket contest against Fenwick. The Kits again fell behind early in the game, and were down, 12-4, going into the second quarter. The Kits started to score in the second quarter, but the Friars did not let up and kept a 31-19 lead going into halftime. The third quarter was a different story. The Kits stepped up on both sides of the ball; they held the Friars to 9 points in the quarter, while scoring 23, led by Jones who scored 24 overall in the game. The Kits lead by one after Jones hit a 3-pointer with less than five seconds left in the game; it was enough to give Evanston a 55-54 win over the Friars.
The Kits, 6-5 for the season, will take on Glenbrook South on Jan. 8 in Beardsley Gym. They then head to Westchester to face St. Joseph on Jan. 9 and then return home to play Waukegan on Jan. 15. These next two weeks will be critical if Evanston wants to salvage a winning season and start playing like the good team everybody expected them to be when the season started.