The percentages might have dictated a different approach after Evanston’s basketball team missed 8 of 9 field goal attempts from 3-point range Friday night in the Class 4A regional tournament championship game at Maine East.
But shooters keep shooting — and the Wildkits will keep playing after clipping Notre Dame 52-45 to earn the right to advance to the Maine South Sectional semifinals next week.
Clutch 3-point baskets by Marcus Johnson and Will Jones forced Notre Dame to abandon its 1-3-1 zone defense in the third quarter, although the Kits did stagger to the finish line with 9 turnovers in the fourth quarter before defeating the Dons for the second time this season.
Evanston, now 21-8, was paced by Jones with 17 points and Johnson with 11 points and 6 rebounds. The champs converted 11-of-14 shots from the floor in the second half. The Wildkits will play Maine South, a 70-45 winner over Niles North, in Wednesday’s sectional on the Hawks’ home court.
Notre Dame (13-16) was eliminated despite 20 points and 9 rebounds from sophomore post player Ammar Becar and 16 points from Joe Mooney, who notched only four in the first half.
With ETHS nursing a 21-16 halftime lead, first Johnson and then Jones connected from deep on opposite wings as part of an 18-point outburst by the No. 3 seeded Kits in the third period.
Jones’ trey staked Evanston to a 29-20 lead just two minutes into the quarter and that’s when Notre Dame switched to a man-to-man.
“I think our kids are pretty comfortable at this point against either a zone or a man-to-man,” pointed out ETHS coach Mike Ellis, “and when you do the things you’ve been able to do all season, there’s nothing to feel BUT comfortable. I thought we had all great looks in the first half, and we told them at halftime that we couldn’t give up on those looks, that we couldn’t hide from those shots. We had to step up and knock them down.
“This (regional title) is really for the kids, even though I told them before the game that we’re all seniors together right now (Ellis is in his fourth year as head coach). The way they’ve matured over the last couple of years is really something. It’s good to see their hard work pay off for them.”
“I felt like it was a struggle for me the whole game through. I felt like I had a bad game tonight because I had so many turnovers,” said Jones. “At halftime we just said what happened, happened (regarding the team’s overall shooting), and not to dwell on the misses, just move on. If you know you can shoot the 3 — shoot the 3.
“Once they go man-to-man we know it’s time to attack. That opened things up for us.”
Jones dropped in 7 points in that third quarter stretch, and the Kits extended the lead to 39-28 after baskets by Jackson Mihevc and Dante Henley to close out the quarter.
Notre Dame pulled to within 45-38 with 3 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the game, and the Dons thought they were even closer when Mooney connected on a runner in the lane on their next possession. But the junior guard was whistled for an offensive foul, wiping out the score, and the Notre Dame bench earned a technical foul that resulted in a pair of made three throws by Jones at the other end.