In the last month of the regular season, Head Coach Bobby Locke knew his team had to focus and step up their play if they wanted a positive sectional seed. In their game against Mount Prospect on Feb. 9, his players responded with a great performance over a good team.
Evanston so far this year has been inconsistent. It has showed flashes of brilliance, but signs of woefulness. Most of the criticism has focused on how young the team was and that they needed to grow up quickly. If their game against Mount Prospect showed anything, it showed they are turning the corner.
From the beginning of the game, the Kits took control and had their way with the equally talented Knights squad. Midway through the second quarter, Evanston led by as much as 16 points, and they kept that lead going into halftime. The third quarter went even better for the Kits as they led, 60-34, going into the final period. The fourth quarter showed much of the same even as Evanston slowed down, but the score stayed lopsided in their favor, and they won by an impressive, 76-46, score. Potential turned into performance as 6-foot-7 junior forward James Farr scored a career high 21 points, including seven straight baskets at the end of the first half.
Farr knew he had a good flow going throughout the game. “My jump shots felt good tonight. Then when I hit that three, I knew I had it going. I’ve only started three games. I made progress tonight on defense and rotating better,” he said.
Fellow junior Garrett Jones agreed how important the game was and how his team came together. “We hadn’t played four quarters of basketball, but we did that tonight and need to keep doing that. We’ve also stressed defense and getting more stops,” Jones added.
In an earlier game on Feb. 5, Evanston came home to face off against rival Niles West. Evanston started the game off hot and led by as much as 12 points in the second quarter, but the Wolves fought back and cut the lead down to 25-20 at halftime. The third quarter was sloppy as both teams committed many turnovers. But the Kits took over in the final period. Jones stepped up big for Evanston in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of his game high 22 points in crunch time. After Jones’ dominance, the Wolves could not catch up as Evanston picked up another win, 67-55.
Coach Locke needed Jones to step up and had the utmost confidence in his star scorer. “Garrett is such an unselfish young man. He’ll play point guard in college and he’ll be great at it,” Locke said. “But at this level, we need him to score 20 to 25 points, and he can do that with ease.
“He is hard to defend. He’s strong, can finish around the basket, make free throws and shoot from range.”
The next week, Evanston went into Glenview to take on Glenbrook South but the biggest news was made before the game for the Kits. Just earlier in the day, Evanston was given the number five seed in the Niles West sectional for next month’s state playoffs, and they completed that good day with a 43-40 victory over the Titans. Both teams went back and forth in the first half and eventually tied, 21-21, going into the half. Evanston held the Titans without a field goal for the first five minutes of the third quarter, and the Kits played good defense throughout the quarter. Evanston, though, struggled on offense; but once again Jones came up big when they needed him. Jones scored a game high 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting. In the fourth quarter, the Kits continued with their stingy defense and held off GBS for the victory.
Coach Locke knows now that his team is ready and is quickly turning the corner. “I saw this coming. It’s just hard to know exactly when it will happen. You can’t make kids mature quicker than they are going to mature. We are doing a much better job of helping each out on defense. Our juniors are the core of this team. They’re starting to get it,” said the Coach.
Up next for Evanston are their last three games of the regular season. First they will head to Waukegan to take on the Bulldogs on Friday; they play St. Ignatius at home the day, and they end their regular season play against Deerfield on Feb. 23.