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With two and a half minutes remaining in the game Friday night at Niles West, Dylan Mulvihill had a chance to put an exclamation point on an Evanston victory with a slam dunk opportunity.
Mulvihill settled for a layup.
A dunk was about the only thing the 6-foot-5 senior didn’t deliver as the Wildkits maintained their perfect Central Suburban League South division record with a 65-49 trimming of the Wolves in Skokie.
Mulvihill recorded career highs for points (20) and rebounds (16) with a warrior-like effort that sent the Kits on their way to their 10th consecutive victory. Coach Mike Ellis’ squad improved to 18-2 on the season and 7-0 in conference play.
“It was a long game, and there was a lot of mileage on my legs at that point,” Mulvihill grinned. “Besides, I learned my lesson (with a miss) against Maine South. I didn’t want to miss another one.”
Mulvihill converted 9-of-15 field goal attempts, along with 2 assists and a steal for the winners. He erupted for 8 points in the third quarter to help the visitors pull away from a 27-27 halftime tie with West (8-11, 1-6).
Nojel Eastern (11 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists) and Jerome Bynum (10 points) added double figure efforts to help offset a game-high 21 points by Niles West’s Evan Hines.
“Whenever we needed a basket, Dylan was always there, whether it was a post-up, a putback of a missed shot or whatever,” said Ellis. “He’s always hungry for the basketball and not many 5 men (post players) are playmakers. Tonight, he was. We don’t win tonight without Dylan. I don’t know if this was his best game, but he’s one of the main reasons we’re walking out of here with a W.
“Dylan is just relentless out there. He competes at both ends of the floor on every possession.”
Mulvihill was credited with 8 offensive rebounds and converted 4 of those into baskets. That’s the kind of hustle that has produced more than one double-double this season for the senior, who might be one of the most improved players in the state of Illinois.
“Yes, I think this was the best game I’ve played, but there are always things I can work on,” he said. “My anticipation was pretty good tonight. I had a good feeling for where the ball was coming off of the rim, and that’s what helped me get some putbacks.
“We’ve been in situations like this before this year, where the game was close at halftime. We just had to come together and trust in ourselves. Coach Ellis always wants us to play better in the second half — even when we play well in the first half — and tonight I think we did.”
ETHS committed 15 of its total 23 turnovers in the first half and still only led 44-39 after three quarters. Mulvihill’s short jumper in the lane midway through the third period was the start of an 8-0 run that helped the Kits gain a measure of control, and they poured in on in the final quarter, outscoring West by a 21-10 margin.
“At halftime we had 15 turnovers to their 8, and if that continued we were gonna go down,” Ellis pointed out. “It was good to see them play a lot more solid after that. We had too many mental mistakes in the first three quarter, but when we could see the finish line, we were a lot more locked in. That’s the kind of foresight we need to have in the first half.”