Many people had no idea how much time it would take for first year Evanston Head Coach Mike Ellis to gel with his new squad after taking over relatively late into training camp when Bobby Locke stepped down after five seasons last August. Coach Ellis came in with a new philosophy of man to man defense and team speed dictating the squad’s overall play. Safe to say, it is so far so good.
The coach got his first taste of Evanston’s biggest rivalry game against New Trier two weeks ago, and he made a decision before the game that proved a boon for the Kits.
Normally a starter, Senior Clarke Rosenberg came off the bench Friday night against New Trier in front of a packed Welsh-Ryan Arena. He put the pedal to the metal, exploding for 11 of his 23 points in the second quarter to pace the Wildkits’ 47-43 victory in the Central Suburban League South action.
Evanston which had won nine straight games up to that point, held a 12-point lead with 5 minutes, 21 seconds left in the game after senior center James Farr (13 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks) split a pair of free throws.
Desperate to climb back in the game, New Trier (6-8, 2-2) applied full-court pressure and created five turnovers in the final four minutes to storm back on a, 10-0, run capped by junior Connor Boehm’s free throw that trimmed the lead to, 42-40, with 2:20 remaining. Boehm (19 points) scored seven of the points during the Trevians’ run.
Following a pair of free throws by Trevians senior Brian Kost with 1:43 left that cut Evanston’s lead to, 44-42, New Trier forced another turnover but missed a game-tying shot with 50 seconds left that was rebounded by Wildkits junior Leonard Garron. Evanston held the lead by hitting free throws down the stretch.
Less than 24 hours later, the Kits faced off against Brooks, who happened to be coached by none other than Bobby Locke. Facing his former team and knowing a lot of Evanston’s players turned out to be a big advantage to Locke’s game planning against the Kits.
Whether it was tired legs from playing the night before or facing their former coach, Coach Ellis wasn’t about to make any excuses for his team in their, 47-37, loss.
After starting the first four minutes of the game with an, 8-2, run, the Wildkits went scoreless for the next 8 minutes, 36 seconds. Despite the drought, Evanston trailed Brooks just, 21-18, at halftime thanks to a late, second-quarter push sparked by Andrew Gillett’s four points and a James Farr three-pointer.
The Wildkits trailed Brooks, 29-25, after a low-scoring third quarter, but their offense could not produce a single point for the first five and a half minutes of the final period. By the time Evanston junior Josh Irving scored a layup with 2:35 remaining, the Eagles had extended their lead to 41-27. The Eagles scored 14 of their 26 second-half points from the free-throw line, finishing 20 of 35 from the charity stripe compared to only 4 of 8 by the Wildkits. Wildkits captain and point guard Garrett Jones tried to play through an ankle sprain but was taken out of the game during the second quarter and did not return.
Since taking the job as coach of Brooks, Locke did not have much time to think about facing his old squad, but a different seat at Friday’s Evanston-New Trier was a good reminder.
“When it really got strange was when I was scouting during the New Trier game,” Locke said. “For the last five years I’ve been sitting on the floor coaching. So that was when it became reality that I would be coaching against them.”
The next week, Coach Ellis made sure his team was prepared for their next match up against conference foe Glenbrook South in Glenview.
James Farr’s ability to block shots and stay out of foul trouble at the same time is one reason for Evanston’s dramatic improvement on defense this season. The senior standout rejected eight shots Friday night and added 18 points and 8 rebounds as Evanston pulled off a, 57-45, victory at Glenbrook South.
Clarke Rosenberg contributed 14 points and Leonard Garron added 11 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks for Evanston. Corey McMahon paced Glenbrook South with 9 points and Jack Ryan netted 8, but he did not score a basket in the final three quarters.
Evanston leads the Central Suburban League South with a, 4-1, division record and an impressive, 15-4, record overall. The Kits are in great shape to get a high seed in their sectional and have an advantage as they play their next two games at home. First they will take on Maine South this Friday in Beardsley to try and avenge their only conference loss earlier this season; they then face Waukegan next Friday.