That’s an ongoing lesson for Evanston’s young basketball team to learn after the Wildkits dropped a 76-71 overtime decision to Crete-Monee at the 7th annual Team Rose Shootout on Nov. 30 at Morton College.
Aggressive enough to rally from a 10-point halftime deficit, the Wildkits reverted to a more passive identity in the overtime session and enabled the Warriors to escape with the win.
Evanston (3-2 overall) suffered its second straight defeat despite a brilliant all-around performance by sophomore Nojel Eastern, who stashed in a game-high 26 points to go with 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. It was Eastern’s two clutch free throws with 7/10ths of a second remaining in regulation that forced a 64-64 deadlock.
But Crete-Monee scored the first five points of the overtime period and cashed in on 7-of-8 at the free throw line to deny ETHS.
The most important statistic so far this season for coach Mike Ellis’ ETHS squad has become “points off turnovers” for the opposition. Sunday, the Warriors cashed in on 19 Evanston turnovers for a total of 20 points.
“We turn it over like that when we play passive basketball,” Ellis pointed out. “When we come out and play aggressive, that’s when we get results. We have to learn more from our mistakes. We’re constantly asking them to go harder in practice and that’s where it all starts. But we still have a lot of guys out there who don’t know their responsibilities on the floor. That’s what they have to learn to be successful. They don’t have their responsibilities mastered on offense yet.
“We had guys who made plays and we didn’t give up. But after a solid effort got us back into the game, it was a lack of effort that lost it for us in overtime.”
Trailing 39-29 at halftime – mostly due to 13 turnovers – the Wildkits climbed back into contention behind Eastern, who sank 10-of-18 field goal attempts for the game. Senior center Elijah Henry scored on back-to-back offensive rebounds midway through the fourth quarter, and then Jerome Bynum followed up a Henry miss to give Evanston a 57-56 advantage with 2 minutes, 2 seconds remaining.
But a 3-point play by sophomore Dwayne Rose (nephew of Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose) and two free throws by Jeremiah Matthews found the Kits staring at a 63-59 deficit with just 24 seconds left.
Evanston sophomore Malik Jenkins drove to the bucket for a 3-point play, and after Henry and Crete’s Tyler Williams traded free throws, it was Eastern’s turn to rise to the occasion.
He rebounded Williams’ missed free throw, drove the length of the court and was fouled on a layup attempt with less than a second remaining. He dropped in both free throws to force the overtime period.
Henry contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Kits, who also got 9 points apiece from Jenkins, Bynum and Micquel Roseman. Roseman was also credited with 6 assists.
Matthews paced Crete with 24 points and Williams netted 21. Rose added 15 points after sinking 9 straight free throws for the winners.