The Evanston Township High School boys’ basketball team opened the season with an 8-2 record and hoped to build on that when they participated in the 39th annual McDipper Tournament of the Stars at Rich South High School between Dec. 26 and 30.
On Dec. 26, the Wildkits took on Rich East and lost, 57-51. Chris Rudnicki led the Kits with 16 points. The defeat put the Kits in the consolation bracket and on Dec. 27, they were able to bounce back and beat Tinley Park, 72-64. Josh Irving led the Kits with 20 points and Leonard Garron added 12 points and eight rebounds. From there, they beat Rich Central, 59-48 to put them in the consolation championship game on Dec. 30. Against Rich Central, Jordan Perrin scored 12 points and Jack Mallers added 10 to lead the Kits.
“We had a great performance by Mallers off the bench,” said head coach Mike Ellis. “He did a nice job of coming off the bench when we were looking for guys to score. Perrin also had a solid tournament. He had a lot of chances to make plays at both ends of the floor.”
In the consolation championship game, the Kits took on Bolingbrook and won, 60-57, giving the Kits the consolation title in the 16-team tournament. Irving led the Kits in scoring once again with 14 points and Perrin and Garron each added 12 in the victory.
“We did not start [the tournament] well. We had too many turnovers to start,” said Ellis regarding his team’s play throughout the tournament. “But in the second and third games we were able to eliminate those turnovers and win the consolation championship.”
He added, “There were areas we were pleased in, we were able to see guys contribute off the bench. But I feel we have a long way to go to reach our potential as a team.”
The Kits went 3-1 in the McDipper tournament to improve their overall record to 11-3. Next up is archrival New Trier on Jan. 6 in Winnetka. The Trevians record stands at 12-2 overall. A victory over the Trevians would give the Kits identical records both overall and in the Central Suburban League South Conference race. New Trier is 3-0 coming in and the Kits are 2-1 in conference play.
“It is going to be a tough game, especially in their gym and against a very good New Trier team,” said Ellis. “But we will try to show up to play one of our better games of the season.”
On Dec. 16, the ETHS girls team took on Niles West and lost, 61-60. In that game the Kits erased a late eight point deficit to take a one point lead, but a foul was called with one second left. Niles West’s Jewell Loyd made both free throws and the Wolves escaped with a victory. The Kits responded by beating Regina on Dec. 20, 58-27. The Kits looked to build on that win with a strong showing in the Dundee Crown Charger Classic between Dec. 26 and 29.
They did just that, going 2-2 and finishing sixth in the 16-team tournament. On Dec. 26, the Kits beat Naperville Central, 41-20, to open the tournament. Sierra Clayborn led the way with 12 points. Then on Dec. 27, they fell to archrival New Trier, 65-47. The Trevians were ranked No. 17 in a recent Chicago Tribune poll. Sinclair Cunningham led the Kits with 10 points.
The next day, the Kits were able to bounce back and beat Maine West, 49-33. In that game, the Kits were led by Alecia Cooley, who scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Cunningham added 14 points. “Maine West does a good job of controlling the tempo,” said head coach Elliot Whitefield. “We did what we are supposed to do when playing a team with less talent. It was a good opportunity to get everyone some playing time.”
That win put the Kits in the fifth place game against Hononegah on Dec. 29. The Kits fell to the Indians, 38-34. Cunningham led the Kits in scoring once again with 13 points. “It was a great game. We had plenty of chances to win. We missed a ton of shots and even layups down the stretch,” said Whitefield. “When you hold a team to 38 points including overtime and shoot 20 more shots than your opponent, you should walk away with a W.”
With the loss, the Kits now hold an overall record of 9-8. Given the team’s sixth place finish, Whitefield is pleased, but knows the Kits can play better. “I was pleased with our effort three out of the four games.” He added, “Even though sixth place was the best finish for the program in a long time, I still believe we have a lot of room for improvement. There isn’t a team in our bracket that I don’t think we can’t beat. We need to keep pushing each other in practice.”
Regarding his team’s performance in the tournament, Coach Whitefield said, “I thought we competed consistently and improved in our execution. Three out of the four games our defense was outstanding and getting open looks for our top scorers.”
Next up for the Kits – matchup with New Trier on Jan. 6.
Regarding New Trier, Whitefield said, “We are looking forward to the challenge. They whipped our butts in every aspect, especially toughness [on Dec. 27]. Maggie [Lyon] is a great player and we will need to make her work on every possession. New Trier is playing really well, but come this Friday night, we are going to give them everything we got.”