Heading into postseason play, the Evanston Township High School boys’ basketball team had lost their last three games of the regular season. But fortunately, the Wildkits were able to regroup after that brief skid and get back into the win column to begin the “second season.”
The Kits, who earned the No. 1 seed in the IHSA Class 4A Glenbrook South Sectional field, beat Glenbrook South on March 1 by a score of 56-29 in the Warren Regional semifinals. Senior Dylan Mulvihill led the way with 13 points as the Kits shot 51% and had assists on 17 of their 24 baskets. With the win, the Kits improved to 22-5 overall and advanced to the Regional title game on March 4 against Niles North.
The Kits prevailed against the Vikings 57-50. In that game, they held a 44-34 lead with a little more than seven minutes remaining and seemed to be in control. But the Vikings did not do down quietly as they got back to within a basket at 52-50 with 1 minute and 23 seconds remaining. Then the Kits went on a 5-0 run, which featured a tough shot by junior Nojel Eastern in the lane along with a free throw, and two additional free throws by senior Trevon Marshall, allowing them to secure the victory. Nojel led the Kits with 22 points including nine in the final stanza. With the win, the Kits improved to 23-5 overall and captured their third straight Regional title.
“I thought it was a very hard-played game by both teams. Both teams showed up and competed,” said Coach Mike Ellis. “We were fortunate enough to make a few plays down the stretch to close it out. But I was very impressed with how our guys came out from the start and were ready to play right from the jump.”
Coach Ellis was also impressed with Nojel’s performance, most notably in the second half. “[Nojel] stabilized us in the second half. He was able to score around the basket, able to get to the free throw line, and able to set up teammates,” the Coach explained. “So he did a great job of facilitating others and also bringing the team on his back when we needed a basket.”
When asked how it felt to win the Regional title, Coach Ellis said, “It feels better to be able to practice [at least one more time] than it does to win the Regional.” The Coach continued, “At this time of year, it is all about staying alive, so we are fortunate and grateful that we get to spend another day in the gym with our guys for practice, and we are looking forward to showing up to the Sectional and trying to get one game further than we did last season.” Coach Ellis was referring to the fact his team lost in the Sectional semifinals last season.
But in order for the Kits to advance, the Coach said it will come down to his team playing hard and playing smart. “Those are two things that when we do those throughout the course of the season, we have been successful,” the Coach explained. “So we are going to make sure that we bring our focus and our intensity.”
On March 8, though, the Wildkits lost, 68-56, to a tough Notre Dame team in the Sectional semi-finals.
The Kits never had the lead. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, they were down, 47-40, and staged a comeback that brought them to within two points, 55-53, with just under three minutes to play. But the Kits missed a pair of free throws, and Notre Dame was able to score a lay-up, and then a series of free throws to put the game away.
Nojel was the Wildkits top scorer, with 27 points. Malik Jenkins scored 11.
The Wildkits finished 23-6 for the season; they lost four of their last six games. They have 13 underclassmen who will be returning next year.