After a tough holiday tournament showing last month, Evanston Township High School’s boys basketball squad needed to turn it around in one of the most crucial parts of this season.
The Kits came into their home game against Highland Park on Jan. 5, with a 6-6 record and hoped to get back to their winning ways. A major change was seen in Evanston’s lineup as senior guard Ryan Frazier-Chambers returned to the starting group after being ineligible for almost two-months. Chambers’ presence was immediately felt on the court, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Evanston led the Giants throughout the first half while playing their stingy 2-2-1 full court press and forcing turnovers which led to a balanced offensive attack. Chambers himself had 4 steals in his return along with his game high 15 points to lead the Kits. Evanston kept the pressure on in the second half while their lead grew to double digits, eventually leading the Kits to a 58-43 victory in Beardsley Gymnasium. Senior forward Tyrone Gibbs chimed in with 11 points while junior big man James Farr had 10 in the win.
Evanston stayed at home on Jan.8 to take on Glenbrook South in a Central Suburban South match up. Although the Titans were in a near rebuilding phase of their basketball program, they still gave the Kits a fight throughout the game. Due to key outside shooting by several Titan guards, GBS took an 11 point lead into halftime. Evanston then turned it around on both sides of the ball, once again led by Chambers, who completed the comeback late in the fourth quarter to put his team up for good with 41 seconds remaining, and leading to a 53-51 victory, the Kits second straight and first conference win.
The next day, the Kits went to Westchester to take on St. Joseph’s in what turned out to be an off night for Evanston. The Kits started the game giving up easy jump shots, but their offense responded as both teams scored 22 points in the first quarter. Going into the second quarter, though, Evanston broke down again in their 2-2-1 zone, and finished the half with a 43-34 deficit.
In the third period, the Chargers kept up their offensive onslaught, scoring 20 more points. With another 18 points in the final period, the Chargers pulled away with an 82-61 victory, ending the Kits’ short winning streak. St. Joe’s went 33-of-50 from the field overall, and they were solid on offense throughout. Senior Mantas Dubauskas led their team with 28 points, fellow senior Wayne Simon added 26. Frazier-Chambers led Evanston with 19 points, while Garrett Jones had 12 points in the loss.
Coach Locke knew there had to be changes made before their big match up against Waukegan on Jan. 15. “We’ll change up some stuff on the press and throw some different looks at Waukegan,” Coach Locke said. “Our big guys were letting the guards do all the work, and we weren’t rotating over to the open men. There were at least 10 times when we didn’t rotate at all.”
When the Kits came into Beardsley Gym to face Waukegan they knew they had to impress a near capacity crowd due to a major promotion by Nike to sponsor their match up with the Bulldogs. Though Evanston did switch up their zone defensive looks, Waukegan went right through it and outscored the Kits 20-11 in the first quarter, with junior Aaron Johnson outscoring the whole Evanston team in that period. Waukegan handled the 1-2-2 pressure put on by the Kits and their lead grew to 43-30 at halftime.
Coach Locke likes to think his team starts fast going into the third quarter, and this game showed he was right. Evanston closed the gap to within 5 going into the fourth. The Kits crept closer due to good defense and solid offense led by Chambers and came to within 65-61, with 3 minutes left in the game. But after turnovers by Evanston leading to Bulldog points, the Kits could not play catch-up any longer, as Waukegan held the ball to eat up the clock at the end of the game. The Kits’ comeback attempt fell flat as the Bulldogs won, 79-67, giving Evanston their second straight loss. Johnson led the victors with 24 points, while Chambers led Evanston along with Jones with 17 points.
The Kits are now at an even, 8-8, record and will try to finish this month with a winning record. On Friday, Evanston will go to Park Ridge and play Maine South, then on Sunday they will travel to North Park University to take on Corliss. The Kits will end the month at Welsh-Ryan Arena to take on New Trier on Jan. 29.