The Evanston Township High School boys’ basketball team looked to end a four-game losing streak when they took on Central Suburban League South foe Waukegan on Jan. 25. But unfortunately for the Wildkits, they were unable to get past the Bulldogs, falling 58-51 at Beardsley Gym in Evanston.
With the score tied at six, junior guard Dante Henley gave the Kits an early 9-6 lead when he nailed a three with less than three minutes remaining in the first quarter. But the Kits went cold and were outscored 8-2 the rest of the quarter, giving the Bulldogs a 14-11 lead. In the second quarter, Waukegan extended the lead to 21-17 with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the half. But on their next two possessions, junior guard Demetrius Bogan and senior forward Pete Winslow both hit jumpers (which were sandwiched between a Bulldog free throw) to get the Kits to within one at 22-21 with one minute left. In the final minute, Waukegan added a jumper to give them a 24-21 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs hit a free throw to open the third quarter. Winslow responded with a three-point play after getting fouled while making a layup, to get the Kits back to within one at 25-24. Then with three minutes 41 seconds left in the third quarter, sophomore forward Elijah Henry gave the Kits a 28-27 lead with a layup. On the next possession, Bogan hit a jumper to extend the lead to 30-27. After Waukegan tied it at 30, senior guard Chris Rudnicki hit a three to put the Kits back on top, 33-30. From there, the Kits took a 36-34 lead into the final stanza.
But in the fourth, the Bulldogs scored the first 11 points to take a 45-36 lead. Winslow tried to keep the Kits close when he hit a three with four minutes left (the Kits’ first points of the quarter), getting the home team within 45-39. But from there, Waukegan had an answer for every Kit basket, as the Bulldogs maintained at least a six-point lead the rest of the way.
“I thought we had some solid play for two-thirds of the game,” said head coach Mike Ellis. “That one stretch [early in the fourth] where we had turnover, turnover, [then they had a] breakaway dunk, that definitely turned the tide [as] we were right there, up one. Then they extended it to a six-point lead. Then we missed a couple threes to maybe cut that lead in half and then you get into trying to be shot-makers.” He added, “So, we played pretty good up to that point, but it kind of got away from us at that juncture.”
With the defeat, the Kits fell to 7-13 overall and 1-6 in CSL South play. The Kits were led by Winslow, who scored 15 points and Henry, who added nine. “Pete played hard. Pete always gives it his all. That’s one thing about Pete, when we put him on the floor, we know we are going to get 100 percent from him,” said Ellis. “He has never given anything less. I thought his effort picked us up a little bit with his intensity. He was mismatched with some of his matchups on defense, so I thought he did a good job defensively.”
Regarding Henry, the Coach added, “Elijah battled well tonight. He had a tough matchup. I thought that was the difference in the game with [Waukegan’s Jerome] Davis inside, blocking shots around the basket, [but Henry] did a great job protecting the rim. When we got it to the basket, we were not able to finish with him being that presence down low.”
Even though the outcome was not what Ellis had hoped for, he was pleased with the performance of the non-starters. “I thought we had some guys contribute off the bench and play pretty well [including Bogan, who scored seven points],” the Coach said. “[But] guys are picking their spots when they are playing well and we just have to eliminate those times when we have those lulls. Those are the parts that we have to try and correct.”
With just seven games remaining before Regionals begin, Ellis knows what his team must do in order to make a run in the postseason. “We need more consistent play. We have times where we play consistently for six, seven, eight minutes, then have a two- or three-minute stretch where we make some poor choices on the floor [where] we do not execute offensively and even defensively, missing assignments,” said Ellis. “Then when we allow those stretches for teams to go on 6-0 runs, 7-0 runs, all of a sudden we are in catch-up mode. So, we have to be little more solid than that [on both ends of the floor].”
The Kits will try to get back in the win column on Friday night when they visit CSL South rival Niles West. Then they take on Lake Forest in the North Shore Shootout at Loyola Academy on Saturday.
“Niles West is a game that they are going to have a lot of motivation to play,” said Ellis. “We were able to take care of one against them here at our place [winning 55-52 on Dec. 14], so we know Niles West is going to be ready to play Friday, so we need to show up and play well.”