After ending a two-game losing streak by beating Maine East on Dec. 2, the Evanston Township High School boys’ basketball team looked to make it two victories in a row when they took on archrival New Trier on Dec. 9 in Winnetka.
The Wildkits were able to do just that, as they cruised to a 57-35 victory against the Trevians. The Kits were led by sophomore guard Nojel Eastern, who scored 15 points, and senior forward Elijah Henry, who had 11, plus 10 rebounds. The Kits held a 22-17 lead at the half and outscored the Trevians 21-7 in the third quarter, including eight points from Eastern, and 14-11 in the fourth in route to their fifth victory of the season and first victory in Central Suburban League South Conference play.
Next the Kits made it three wins in a row as they beat Glenbrook South 59-43 on Dec. 13 in the home opener at Beardsley Gym in Evanston. The Kits led 14-7 after the quarter. In the second quarter, Eastern scored eight of his 11 points, first including two three-pointers, as the Kits took a 29-21 lead into the half.
That lead would grow to 40-30 after three quarters, and with 5:16 left in the fourth, Eastern made it 47-33 after hitting his third three-pointer of the game, and that deficit was too much for the Titans to overcome, as the Kits rolled to victory. With the win, the Kits improved to 6-2 overall and 2-0 in the CSL South.
“I thought we were sloppy at times on both ends of the floor. There were some breakdowns that we can correct,” said head coach Mike Ellis. “We know with the schedule we have coming up, we have to be solid both on offense and defense. But this group, they have given a great effort in practice and in games the past two or three weeks coming out of Thanksgiving. So they are really doing a great job of understanding (the mindset of) let’s play hard and good things will happen.” The coach added, “They did a nice job of playing with some intensity and some effort, which is what we have worked on the last few weeks in practice.”
In addition to Eastern’s 11, Henry tallied a team-high 12 points (all of which were in the second half) and sophomore guard Chris Hamil added 11 to lead the Kits scoring attack. Henry was held scoreless in the first half due to early foul trouble, but bounced back and had a big second half including three rebounds, and a steal.
Regarding Henry’s performance, Ellis said, “I was happy to see him get involved in the second half after picking up two (early) fouls and having to sit the first half.” He added, “That did not discourage him from coming back in and making plays. He did a good job on both ends of the floor. So in limited minutes, he ended up with 12 points in 13 minutes, so that is solid production.”
Regarding Eastern, who did not start the game due to missing practice because of illness, Ellis said, “Nojel is a guy that comes in and was three for six on three’s, so that is nine points, and that kept us in the lead for most of the game. So that cushion was created by Nojel coming in and knocking in some shots.”
Despite not having Eastern and Henry in the lineup early, the Kits were able to establish the lead and hold onto it until the team’s leading scorers reentered the game. But that did not surprise Ellis as he said he sees different players stepping up every day in practice.
“I see it in practice. So it is not something that I am overly excited about (because) I see it every day,” Ellis explained. “We have got a well-rounded team. One day in practice it is one guy that steps up and has a great practice and another day it is another guy.” He added, “So hopefully we can continue to work on that where we are striving and competing to get better, and then all of a sudden it is more than just one guy or two guys, it is everybody stepping up at once.”
Next up, the Kits take on Maine South on Dec. 19 and then Loyola on Dec. 20. Regarding those matchups, Ellis said, “Maine South ended our season last year, and there were guys on this team that had to turn in their uniforms with the Sectional loss to Maine South, so they are going to be tough.” The coach added, “Both games this weekend are going to be tough. (Maine South coach)Tony Lavorato is one of the best coaches in the state, and so is (Loyola coach) Tom Livatino. So my job is just not to get outcoached this weekend, and I have probably got a tougher job than that, so it is going to be a battle, it is going to be tough.”