After falling to Oak Park-River Forest on Jan. 18, the Evanston Township High School boys’ basketball team looked to bounce back against archrival New Trier on Jan. 24. The Wildkits did just that, beating the Trevians 63-55, which marked the second time the Kits prevailed against the Trevians this season.
“I thought we answered some challenges,” said head coach Mike Ellis. “That was the best thing about how we played [against New Trier] was there were times throughout the game where we were challenged. We had control of that game but New Trier being as well-coached as they are always seem to answer back.” He added, “I was proud of the way our guys responded to those different challenges throughout the course of the game to maintain control of it.”
In that game, senior Will Jones led the Kits with 22 points, 12 of which came at the free throw line, and junior Elijah Henry chipped in with 14 points including six in the fourth quarter, to go with 15 rebounds. As a team, the Kits went 20 for 28 at the charity stripe in the victory.
Regarding Jones’ performance, Ellis said, “Will played a very steady game. He allowed the scoring to come to him without forcing the scoring. It never seemed like we took the ball down the floor trying to get Will the ball. Most of his points just came to
Will within the flow of the offense.” The Coach added, “Anytime you have a player play that successfully while at the same time staying in the framework of the offense, it allows other people on the team to step up and make big shots. So I think that is a big advantage for our style of play.”
In beating New Trier, the Kits are undoubtedly pleased, but they viewed the victory more as an opportunity to stay in the Central Suburban League South Conference race instead of just earning bragging rights.
“We are looking at it as a chance to maintain second place in the race for a conference championship,” said Ellis. “We are looking at it in terms of Maine South getting us the first time around [by a score of 61-47 on Dec. 20], so we feel like what [the New Trier] win did for us was to still control our own destiny.”
He added, “Had we taken a loss at New Trier, Maine South would have been in control of the championship. So at least we are holding onto that position where we control our own destiny in terms of first place in the CSL South.”
With the victory over New Trier, the Kits improved to 15-5 overall and 5-1 in Central Suburban League South Conference play. Maine South sits one game ahead of the Kits in the conference standings at 6-0. The Kits have just seven games remaining, four of which are conference games including a pivotal matchup with Maine South on Feb. 7, which could decide the conference winner.
In order for the Kits to be successful down the stretch and in the playoffs, Ellis feels that defense is the key.
“I think we need to continue to improve defensively. Be aware of certain situations on defense. We need to be able to help teammates out a little sooner, be able to recover a little quicker and try to get in position to allow our defense to lead to points on the offensive end,” said Ellis.
“Those are things that are going to help us in terms of preparing ourselves for the postseason. When it comes to the postseason, teams that can get stops on defense, those are the ones that advance,” he added.
Next up, the Kits take on CSL South foe Glenbrook South on Friday night at Beardsley Gym in Evanston in the rematch of the Dec. 13 matchup, which the Kits won in overtime by a score of 57-51.
“When we played them the first time around they were without their senior center and leading scorer and rebounder Connor McCarthy, so this time around, we anticipate him playing and they will be at full strength,” said Ellis regarding Glenbrook South. “So going to overtime with them at their place with them missing their leading scorer and rebounder it is definitely going to be a lot bigger challenge [this time]. We are looking forward to playing a better game than we did the first time around and we know that we have to be focused and on top of our game to come out ahead.”