Evanston’s basketball team spent extra practice time working on free throw shooting this week.
It took awhile for that practice to pay off. But after missing 8 of 14 attempts in regulation play, the Wildkits converted on 6-of-7 chances in overtime and escaped with a 57-51 overtime road victory at Glenbrook South Friday night.
Senior guards Will Jones and Nibra White cashed in on six straight attempts at the free throw line and assured Evanston of its seventh straight victory. Now 7-1 overall, coach Mike Ellis’ squad also remains atop the Central Suburban League South division standings at 2-0.
Evanston entered the contest shooting just 58 percent as a team at the charity stripe. But Ellis said he felt confident when first White (50 percent) and then Jones (76 percent) had the opportunity to put the game away after ETHS let a 7-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter.
White led all scorers with 18 points and Jones added 13 for the winners. GB S (4-4 overall) was led by Paul Jones with 15 points and reserve Danny Nikita with 13 off the bench.
“I felt good about both of them there,” Ellis said after White sank both ends of a 1-and-1 situation, and Jones followed with four in a row in the final 53 seconds. “Will has already proven he can hit big free throws for us. Both he and Nibra invested a lot over the summer in developing their games, and those are the kind of guys you want there (at the free throw line). Why? Because they’ve earned it.
“I thought the key for us tonight was the way we turned it up in the overtime after allowing Glenbrook South to get back in the game. I thought our guys showed a lot of resiliency. We definitely need to focus more on our free throw shooting so we spent 20 minutes of practice on it every day this week. And when we needed them the most, we knocked them down.”
After scoring 139 points in their last two games, the visitors couldn’t get untracked offensively against a GBS team that was more than willing to play at a plodding pace. ETHS shot 15-of-26 against the Titans’ 1-3-1 zone, and even after scoring just one point in the last three minutes of the third quarter, still held onto a comfortable 38-31 lead entering the final period.
The Wildkits missed 11 of their first 12 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, enabling the Titans to chip away at the lead. The hosts actually led 47-44 with 27 seconds to play on a pair of bonus free throws by Nikitas, but ETHS answered with a 3-point basket by Dante Henley with 17 seconds on the clock.
GBS had a chance to pull out the victory but a baseline shot by Johnny Cowhey fell short of the rim.
Evanston scored on its opening possession of the OT, with White feeding junior Elijah Henry (7 points, 8 rebounds) for a layup. Neither team scored again until the final minute, and three steals by Henley in the OT kept the Titans off the board. Their only points came on a free throw by Jimmy Martinelli and a 3-pointer by Nikitas with the outcome no longer in doubt.
Evanston hosts CSL South favorite Maine South next Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Beardsley Gymnasium.