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Evanston’s coaching staff caught a glimpse in practice over the past week of a basketball team that is starting to put all phases of the game together.
That performance carried over and helped the Wildkits dominate arch-rival New Trier 57-35 in the Central Suburban League South division opener for both teams Tuesday night in Winnetka.
Head coach Mike Ellis called it “probably our best game at both ends of the floor” as the Kits improved to 5-2 overall and held the Trevians (2-4) to 30 percent shooting on their home court.
Nojel Eastern (15 points) and Elijah Henry (11 points, 10 rebounds) paced another balanced effort by Evanston, which outscored New Trier 21-7 in the third quarter to take control.
“We came out aggressive on offense and really active on defense, and that was great to see,” Ellis said. “That’s something we were lacking before tonight. Our guys carried it over onto the floor after a good week of practice. We told them we just had to leave everything out on the court tonight, and that’s what they did.
“Yes, this was probably our best game so far overall on offense and defense. I think our younger guys are starting to feel more comfortable after getting back into the gym (for practice) after that stretch of 6 games in 9 days. We could have easily been burned by New Trier’s size tonight, but we had 23 deflections on defense and we really did a great job of helping out on the low post.”
Evanston built a slim 22-17 advantage in the first half, and then Eastern erupted for 8 points in the third quarter, outscoring the entire Trevian team. “Nojel scored 15 points on only 9 shots (from the field) and that’s about as efficient as you can get,” Ellis praised. “Nojel is everybody’s best friend on this team, and not because he’s a highly-ranked player. They look for him for leadership because they know how unselfish he is, and they understand that he’ll do whatever he can do to help us win.”
Eastern chalked up a 3-point play on Evanston’s first possession of the second half — off a feed from Malik Jenkins — as the visitors gradually started to pull away. His baseline jumper expanded the lead later to 33-24, and on the next possession, the Kits broke New Trier’s back.
Henry missed a layup in transition when he was jostled hard and no foul was called on the play. But the ball wound up back on the perimeter and in the hands of Tommy Haughey, who drained a deep 3-point shot. Evanston wound up scoring the last 10 points of the third period to put the game away.
That strong second half made up for a slow start that found the Kits scoring just 6 points in the first quarter, 5 of them by Eastern.
“At the start of the game New Trier had a lot of momentum,” Ellis noted. “But we were only down 1 or 2 baskets instead of something like 12-2. Our guys did a good job of surviving that first onslaught by New Trier.”
No one reached double figures for the Trevians, who were led by David Hammes with 8 points. The losers shot just 15-of-46 from the field.