After playing their first 10 games on the road, head coach Mike Ellis and his team were not about to complain about being 7-3 before coming home last Friday to play Niles West. They had come off two big wins against conference foe Waukegan and a tough Oak Park team.
Many Evanston fans know the stars of this team are senior guard Garrett Jones and senior center James Farr, but not many know how deep the Kits are or that they have many quality players who seem to have stepped up in every game so far.
Senior Leonard Garron’s layup with 2.4 seconds remaining in overtime lifted Evanston to a 73-68 win at Waukegan. But the Wildkits’ first Central Suburban League South victory under new coach Mike Ellis would not have been possible without a guy who did not score at all against the two-time defending division champions.
Senior reserve Mike Rice held Waukegan guard Aaron Johnson without a field goal in the fourth quarter and overtime period, even though Johnson led all scorers with 30 points for the Bulldogs (3-4 overall, 1-1 CSL South).
Garrett Jones (27 points), James Farr (18 points, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Leonard Garron (11 points) helped Evanston improve to 6-3 and 1-1, respectively.
On two straight crucial possessions in the fourth quarter, Rice bodied Johnson away from the basket just enough to make his shots come up short. The visitors actually had a chance to win in regulation, but Farr missed a lay-in at the buzzer.
In the overtime, Evanston executed perfectly again down the stretch as Jordan Perrin penetrated and fed Garron for the game-winner. Farr added three free throws, which sealed the game for the Kits.
Next, Evanston traveled to Oak Park to take on the Huskies on Dec. 14, and this game also came down to the wire. The Wildkits trailed, 28-23, at halftime, despite a strong half by senior Clarke Rosenberg, who had 9 points.
Evanston tied the game at 30 with a 7-2 run to start the third quarter, as a tip in from Rosenberg capped the run.
Oak Park (5-3) responded with a 7-2 run of its own and Evanston trailed, 39-35, at the end of the third quarter.
Led by senior guard Garrett Jones’ 6 points in the fourth quarter, the Wildkits tied the game at 47 with 2:30 left. Evanston took the lead for the first time in the game on the next possession as junior guard Jordan Perrin hit two free throws. Evanston went 10-for-12 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
Then, for the first time of the season, Evanston got to play in Beardsley Gym on Dec. 17. If the game showed anything, it showed the Kits were eager to play at home against the Niles West Wolves. Evanston led, 15-13, after a nip-and-tuck first quarter. But with an explosive 10-2 run, the Wildkits opened the floodgates and jumped to a 25-15 advantage halfway through the second quarter and never looked back.
Evanston put together an offensive clinic, outscoring the Wolves, 24-11, in the second quarter thanks to a balanced scoring attack with Farr (21 points), Jones (19 points) and senior guard Rosenberg (6) scoring six points each in the period. Farr had his finest moments of the game in the third quarter, as he put an exclamation point on the night when he connected on an alley-oop dunk courtesy of Jones and added a key block of a Niles West shot to maintain a 46-32 lead.
The Kits did not let up in the 4th quarter as they blew out the Wolves, 86-52, to pick up their second straight conference win. Farr also added 19 rebounds and 4 blocks to his great performance, and Coach Ellis knows how important his dominance can be in any game.
“We need James to play that way,” Coach Ellis said. “James has to play with a mission, a focus and an agenda. He has to be on the floor looking to get results for our team. If he’s out there floating and drifting and not playing aggressively, we’re an average team. He’s a person who has an element that can take us over the top. It’s good to see him progress.”
Evanston, currently 8-3, is playing this week in the Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament in DeKalb and hopes to move on to the championship game next Monday.