It is that time of year all high school basketball teams look forward to: playoff hoops action. After battling in the week-long Thanksgiving tournaments at the beginning of the season, it is now win or go home, the most exciting part of these athletes’ season.
No team seems more excited than Evanston’s own varsity squad that starts their playoff journey tonight in Wilmette at the Loyola campus.
But before the Kits could start their postseason play, they had to finish off their last three regular season games starting with Waukegan, one of the toughest teams in the state.
Though Evanston was playing in the hostile “Dog Pound” as the Bulldogs call it, the Kits came onto the court seemingly unafraid of the environment. The teams went back and forth until the second quarter when Evanston got the lead and kept it until halftime.
Going into the second half the Kits were up, 38-36. The Bulldogs rallied back behind their star player, senior forward and University- of-Illinois-bound Jereme Richmond, who carried Waukegan in the second half and helped his team to build a lead, 57-53, after three quarters.
Going into the final period, Richmond continued to dominate by scoring 11 of his game 30 points in the fourth. Despite strong efforts by both of Evanston’s starting guards, senior Ryan-Fraizer Chambers and junior Garrett Jones, Waukegan pulled away late and pulled out an, 86-71, victory over the Kits. Chambers scored 19, while Jones chipped in with a team high 24 points.
Head Coach Bobby Locke was proud of his team’s effort against the top team in the state.
“I honestly think a lot of people thought this would be a walkover for Waukegan,” said the Coach. “But I like the effort we gave, and we had an opportunity to win it. We just ran out of gas, and I still feel real good about the opportunity we have in the sectional,” he added.
The Kits stayed home the next day to take on St. Ignatius, and again Evanston had to fight their way to the end like they have been doing much of this season.
Once again Evanston battled for the lead for the second straight night and once again scraped together a, 31-26, halftime lead. In the second half, the Wolfpack stepped up on defense, holding Evanston to only 14 points in that half. In the fourth quarter, Jones hit a jump shot to put Evanston up, 45-40, with a little over a minute left in the game.
The Wolfpack came down the court and sophomore Jack Crepeau hit a three pointer and then an Evanston turnover led to an easy lay-up to tie the game at 45, with 40 seconds left.
After Jones missed a short jumper, St. Ignatius got the ball and called a time out.
After the short break, the ball went back into Crepeau’s hands and he then hit a short jump shot with only two seconds remaining to give his team the win and give Evanston their second straight defeat. The tandem of Jones and Chambers once again carried the load for the Kits by combining for 32 points in the game.
Although Evanston suffered defeats in consecutive nights, Coach Locke thinks his back court is really coming together.
“That’s the best game our two guards have played together,” the Coach said. “Garrett really took on that defensive challenge, he wanted to guard their best ball-handler, and I think it gets him more engaged in the game while leaving Ryan free to roam and that’s what he does best.”
That next week, Evanston played in their final regular season game against Niles North in Skokie.
This time the Kits grabbed an early lead that they never gave up. Evanston was led by Chambers who scored 17 points, had 8 rebounds and 6 steals. Junior James Farr had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds to close out the regular season with a, 58-42, victory.
Evanston will now start regional play against Loyola in their own Wilmette campus at 7:30 p.m., and if they are victorious they will play in the regional championship against the winner of Von Steuben/Mather on Friday.