Once Evanston’s basketball team began to play with a sense of urgency, the Wildkits ran visiting St. Charles East out of Beardsley Gym on a snowy Saturday night.
Evanston rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit and scored a 72-64 non-conference victory of St. Charles East to open the 2004 portion of the season on a winning note as four players scored in double figures. The Wildkits improved to 11-4 on the year.
A rare 4-point play midway through the fourth quarter climaxed the comeback and gave ETHS the lead for the first time in the game. The hosts converted 8-of-12 free throw attempts in the final period to pull away, and guards Will Jones and Dante Henley combined for 12 points in the fourth quarter.
“We were sluggish at both ends of the floor in the first half,” said Evanston coach Mike Ellis after his team fell behind St. Charles (8-7) by a 38-22 margin. “We settled for too many 3s, we took way too many 3s. We’re not that type of team (2-of-13 shooting from behind the arc). I thought we played with more of a sense of urgency in the second half. We came out and played at more of an up-tempo pace, and the difference in turnovers (9 in the first half, 3 in the second half) was significant. Our intensity was a lot better in the second half, and we finished more plays.”
The Wildkits trailed 60-55 with 3 minutes, 50 seconds remaining before ETHS freshman Nojel Eastern (team-high 15 points) swished a 3-point basket. On Evanston’s next possession, Henley muscled in a fast-break layup, and when the officials ruled that he was intentionally fouled on the play, Jones added two more free throws.
“That was a good finish by Dante, because their kid grabbed him and he played through it,” Ellis praised. “We took advantage of the stops we got in the second half and we were able to run more because of those stops. And once we got the lead, you could see the determination by our kids at both ends of the floor. They didn’t want to have to come back like that again.”
A fast-break basket by C.J. Singletary after a turnover extended the lead to 64-60. St. Charles East eventually clawed back to within 65-64, but Jones fed Marcus Johnson for a layup with 61 seconds to play and the Kits sealed the deal at the free throw line after that.
Jones (11 points) also contributed on the defensive end in the second half. He picked up two early personal fouls and when he went to the bench, the Kits couldn’t contain Fighting Saints guard Dom Adduci, who fired in 15 points in the first half.
When Jones guarded him most of the second half, Adduci was limited to 4-of-10 shooting from the floor, finishing with a game-high 23 points. “Will got some results in the second half that we weren’t able to get in the first half,” the coach said.