Big men who’ll run the floor and also dive for a loose ball are becoming increasingly rare in high school basketball these days.
But Evanston’s Elijah Henry never stops hustling and that’s one reason the 6-foot-5 junior may turn out to be a special player.
Henry hustled his way to a game-high 16 points and also added 7 rebounds Tuesday night as the Wildkits concluded the regular season with a 65-52 Central Suburban League crossover win at Maine West.
Evanston will take a 19-8 won-lost record into next Tuesday’s Illinois High School Association Class 4A regional tournament at Maine East.
Henry erupted for seven points in the fourth quarter to help the Kits hold off a Maine West rally. He helped the visitors apply the finishing touch as they splurged for 24 points in the final period, including an effort play that helped turn the tide in ETHS’ favor.
Fouled in the act of shooting, Henry converted a free throw to boost Evanston to a 54-46 lead with less than three minutes remaining in the game. He missed the second shot, but dropped to the floor and scrambled for the loose ball. Henry grabbed it, shoveled a pass to teammate Dante Henley, and Henley’s subsequent pass to C.J. Singletary produced a layup and a double digit lead.
Maine West (11-15) never got closer than eight points after that.
“One thing you know when you come to watch Evanston play is that Elijah Henry will play hard, night in and night out,” praised ETHS coach Mike Ellis. “That rebound on the free throw was a big play in the game. Second effort points are something that we talk about a lot as a team.
“After the first quarter (when Henry stashed in 7 points) Maine West was collapsing on him, and we couldn’t find him. A lot of his points came in transition. He always runs the floor and plays hard, and if there’s an opening and we get him the ball, he’ll find it.”
Henry’s team-high 16 points came on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor. Henley added 10 points, Singletary scored 9 and Nibra White netted 8 points to go with 9 rebounds from Marcus Johnson.
Evanston outscored the hosts 30-19 in the first half before the Warriors clawed their way back in the final two periods.
“Once we stopped turning the ball over, we got to the basket and we stayed aggressive,” Ellis said. “We do have to do a much better job of taking care of the basketball. We were too careless. We need to value the ball a little more.
“Some of our guys didn’t play their best games tonight. But all year these players have picked each other up, and that’s what we did again tonight.”