The Evanston Township High School boys basketball team jumped out to a 5-0 start after winning all five games in the Nov. 21-26 Lane Tech Thanksgiving Tournament. At that tournament, the Wildkits beat Taft, 63-56 and Zion-Benton, 63-58. Against Zion-Benton, senior Josh Irving scored 34 points to lead the Kits. From there, they beat Walter Payton, 62-20, Notre Dame, 46-35, and Lane Tech, 47-35, to capture the tournament championship.
Then, on Nov. 29, the Kits beat Maine East, 77-24, in their home-opener at Beardsley Gym in Evanston. On Dec. 3, they beat Maine South, 36-35, thanks to a layup by senior Leonard Garron with 15 seconds remaining, to give the Kits the victory, bringing their overall record to 7-0. On Dec. 9, the Kits suffered their first loss. It was at the hands of Waukegan, 74-54; they were unable to bounce back the next night, falling to Loyola, 49-44.
The Kits got back into the win column on Dec. 16 against Niles West, beating the Wolves, 48-42, in Niles. In that game, the Kits trailed 15-13 with five minutes remaining in the second quarter, but went on a 10-0 run to close the quarter, taking a 23-15 lead into halftime.
“You cannot go on a run unless you begin with stops. Otherwise you end up trading baskets,” said head coach Mike Ellis. “Any time we put stock in the defensive end of the floor that just helps put us in positions to score successive baskets. You have to make good decisions on offense, which we did. It is further than just getting stops.” He added, “Offensively, we had good decisions, executed well.”
In the third period, the Kits would extend their lead to 12 at 34-22 after sophomore Jackson Mihevc drilled a 3-pointer with just over two minutes left in the quarter. But the Wolves responded and got to within 5 at 37-32 after three. But the Kits outscored the Wolves 11-10 in the fourth to hang on for the 48-42 win.
The Kits were led by senior John Kountoures, who scored 10 points. Senior Jordan Perrin scored 8 points, Garron added 7 and Mihevc chipped in 6 points. With the win, the Kits improved to 8-2 overall and 2-1 in Central Suburban League South Conference play.
“I thought we played better than we did last week,” said Ellis. “We made some improvement in terms of execution and effort and those are the two things we really focused on this week.”
With that win, the Kits snapped a brief two-game losing streak, which, along with how they executed and the effort they displayed, pleased Ellis.
“It feels better that we played better with the things we worked on in practice this week. Aside from winning the game, it is a good sign that the things we really focused on this week and emphasized, we came out to the floor and executed those points.”
The coach added, “So to me, as a coach, how I look at it is [this]: The things we work on each day in practice this week, are we able to implement those into the game? And we were able to do that. So from this point forward, it is just continuing to do that. Wins will take care of themselves. We just have to continue to show up and play each night.”
Next the Kits participate in the Dec. 26-30 McDipper Tournament at Rich South, followed by a matchup with archrival New Trier on Jan. 6.
“It is going to be challenging. There are a lot of athletic, skilled teams,” said Ellis, regarding the McDipper Tournament. “We play teams from the South Side of Chicago. We are not familiar with a lot of them, they are not familiar with us. … [I]t is going to be good to head out there and play teams we’re not familiar with, similar to the Thanksgiving tournament. Hopefully we can try to produce the same results we had at Thanksgiving.”