Even during a seven-game winning string, Evanston’s basketball team wasn’t as consistent as head coach Mike Ellis would have liked his team to be.
That search for consistency continues after the Wildkits dropped their second straight game Saturday night on the road.
Unbeaten Loyola Academy needed a 21-8 advantage at the free throw line to pull out a 65-57 triumph in a non-conference matchup against the Wildkits. Evanston slipped to 7-3 entering the Pekin Holiday Tournament next week, despite leading for most of the first half.
Loyola (9-0) recovered to take a 39-34 edge after three quarters, then sank 17-of-21 at the free throw line in the final period to secure the victory.
Ellis felt his team took a step forward compared to Friday’s home loss against Maine South, while acknowledging that his team still has work to do at both ends of the floor. Besides 17 points from Nibra White and 16 from freshman Nojel Eastern — including three 3-point baskets from 25 feet away — the Wildkits didn’t succeed in denting the various zone defenses thrown at them for the second night in a row.
The fact that ETHS settled for mostly perimeter shots (25 3-point attempts compared to 20 from 2-point range) was one reason the Ramblers attempted 28 free throws to 12 for the losers.
“We just talked to them a lot about playing more consistent,” said Ellis following the team post-game chat. “We play solid at times, and then we make too many mistakes. If we play with consistency and play with effort, we’re going to be alright.
“That free throw difference was due to a lack of effort on our part. We weren’t communicating, so too many times we were out of position on defense and that’s what put them at the free throw line so much. You can’t give an average, or minimum, effort on defense and still expect to make plays. And Loyola’s a hard team to cover. They’re one of the best shooting teams in the area.”
Micquel Roseman’s 25-foot bomb with one second left in the first half staked the visitors to a 25-24 lead. Back bounced the Ramblers in the third stanza paced by the 1-2 scoring punch of James Clarke (19 points) and Jack Morrissey (18). The pair combined for a trio of treys for a 39-34 advantage after three quarters.
Eastern kept the home crowd nervous by dropping in two 3-pointers in the final stanza. His second trey made it only a 55-50 deficit with 2 minutes, 40 seconds to play.
White cashed in on two free throws with 2:15 remaining, but after that the Kits only mustered five points down the stretch.