Having rallied to win the consolation championship in the McDipper Tournament, the Evanston Township High School boys basketball team hoped to carry that momentum into a matchup with Central Suburban League South Conference foe New Trier on Jan. 6. But the Wildkits were unable to do so, falling to their rivals 58-48 in Winnetka. Josh Irving led the Kits with 18 points and Leonard Garron added 14.
From there, the Kits returned home to face another conference foe in Glenbrook South on Jan. 13. Playing on Friday the 13th proved to be a good thing for the Kits, who prevailed 49-46. The Kits had trailed 13-9 after the first quarter, and the Titans extended their lead to 24-18 late in the second. But John Kountoures hit a 3-pointer with one second left in the half to get the Kits within 3 points at 24-21.
In the third quarter, with the Kits trailing 26-24, Kountoures struck again, hitting another 3-pointer to put the Kits ahead, 27-26. Then, on the next possession, he extended that lead with a jumper followed by a layup after he stole the ball, increasing the Kits lead to 5 at 31-26 with just over six minutes remaining in the quarter. The Kits led 36-32 after three quarters of play.
In the fourth quarter, with four minutes and twenty seconds remaining and the Kits ahead by 1, Bobby Clayborn drilled a 3-pointer to extend the lead to four at 43-39. They did not look back from there, hanging on for the 49-46 win, despite being outscored 14-13 in the quarter.
Josh Irving led the Kits with 12 points and Kountoures finished with 10. With the win, the Kits improved to 12-4 overall and 3-2 in CSL South Conference play. “They are a well-coached and well-disciplined team,” said Kits head coach Mike Ellis. “We did a good job playing in a game where we knew it was going to be a battle throughout. The key to winning was playing aggressive.”
In the second half, the Kits had seemed able to get to the basket at will and played a more stifling defense. Coach Ellis said, “[Our defense] starts with Jordan Perrin. He did a good job of guarding and playing pressure defense [and] that helped us gain an advantage.”
The coach added, “We don’t want to be a team the settles for shots. We did a better job of passing and finding opportunities in the second half. We [also] did a good job of attacking off the dribble.”
On Jan. 14, the Kits took on St. Joseph’s and lost 63-61. The Kits trailed 27-13 after the first quarter, but were able to rally and tie the game late in the fourth. With under a minute remaining and trailing by 3, Irving attempted a 3-pointer that would have tied the game, but the shot was blocked, securing the victory for St. Joseph’s. Irving led the Kits with 28 points.
“We didn’t get off to a good start, but I was proud of how we regrouped at half and were able to tie it,” said Ellis.
With that defeat, the Kits fell to 12-5 overall. The Kits were set to take on Stevenson Jan. 17 in Evanston, followed by a visit to Maine South on Friday night. From there, they visit Waukegan on Jan. 27.
Regarding Stevenson, Coach Ellis said, “They are a good team. They beat Warren earlier in the year, who is definitely a top team in the area. They are very skilled around the perimeter.” He says he feels the keys to victory include “contesting shots, making sure they don’t get open threes and no dribble penetration. The key is making them earn their points.”