The Wildkits are in a fight to the end in their conference, as they are now tied at the top with both New Trier and Waukegan for the CSL South with only three games left. The Kits must also gain momentum going into the state tournament, where Evanston was given a number two seed in their New Trier sectional.
Their race for the conference title continued two weeks ago in Skokie against Niles West, and if the game showed anything, it showed that every team knows that Evanston is the team to beat.
When the little things that make up a basketball game mattered the most, Evanston’s biggest players made the largest impact as the Wildkits held off Niles West that night, 59-56.
Evanston 6-foot-4 junior Leonard Garron (12 points, eight rebounds, three assists) scored 6 points and grabbed five rebounds in the fourth quarter. He also spent most of the final quarter chasing the Wolves’ senior guard Tony Pierce (21 points, five assists), helping limit him to 4 points on one field goal.
Pierce scored his 4 points in the final quarter with under two minutes left to try and bring the Wolves back. His 10-foot baseline jumper off an Evanston turnover with 1 minute, 15 seconds left cut the Wildkits’ lead to 59-56.
The Wildkits were able to take nearly 50 seconds off the clock before Niles West senior Patrick O’Connor came up with a steal with 20 seconds left. Evanston’s Clarke Rosenberg (4 points, six rebounds, two steals) deflected a Niles West pass out of bounds well into the back court with 3.6 seconds left. Niles West senior Donte Logan’s (9 points, five steals) desperation 35-footer hit off the backboard as time expired.
Garron scored on a putback off a missed free throw early in the fourth quarter, a layup that he took coast to coast off a rebound and another layup in a half-court set off a nice feed from Rosenberg. However, his efforts guarding the perimeter stood out to Evanston coach Mike Ellis.
“There’s no question about it, Leonard Garron is the toughest guy we’ve got,” Coach Ellis said. “You want a guy like that to take on that challenge. Whether he’s got to work hard on the perimeter or whether he’s got to battle down in the low post, you’d like to have that game decided by your toughest kids. Leonard gives us great flexibility on matchups. He enjoys that role of being a reliable defensive player.”
The next day, the Kits faced off against St. Ignatius and their 6-foot-10 University of Illinois-bound star center Nnanna Egwu. Although Egwu was the kid to watch, Evanston’s own senior big man James Farr turned some heads his way with his playing style.
The 6-foot-8 Wildkits senior matched the 24 points scored by Egwu, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Evanston’s 60-50 loss to St. Ignatius in the opening game of the event.
Farr’s late scoring surge – he netted 18 of his points in the second half – could not pull out a win for the Wildkits.
ETHS took on New Trier in their next game on Feb. 12. Whether it was playing for first place in the Central Suburban League South, playing against historic rival Evanston or even a missed free-throw during the second quarter, New Trier’s Connor Boehm had an extra spring in his step in their second game against the Kits at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The 6-foot-7 junior forward hammered down two of his four dunks in the game off backdoor feeds from sophomore guard Reid Berman (4 points, five assists) during the fourth quarter and also got a bucket in the paint with a minute to go to help secure a 47-43 Trevians’ victory.
Evanston controlled the first half behind 9 points from Farr (15 points, five blocks) and took a 25-18 lead into halftime. But the Trevians (13-10, 6-3) rode Boehm’s 11 third-quarter points to take a 33-31 advantage into the final quarter.
In a fourth quarter that saw three ties and three lead changes, each team had different players step up to make huge plays. Evanston’s Josh Irving scored all 5 of his points in the fourth quarter, including a trey, to put the Wildkits on top, 41-40, with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left.
Trevians’ point guard David Bragiel scored his only 2 points of the game at the free-throw line with 1:45 remaining to put New Trier ahead for good, 42-41. He then assisted on another Boehm bucket on their next possession off another backdoor cut, giving the Trevians a 44-41 cushion and eventually closing the game for his squad.
Evanston is now 17-8 overall and has a 6-3 conference record. The Kits will play their final CSL South game Friday night at home against Glenbrook South. They stay in Beardsley Gym next Tuesday to play their final regular season game against either Glenbrook North or Niles North as they fight for the CSL North title.