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The Evanston Township High School boys’ basketball team entered their season-opening Thanksgiving tournament at St. Viator with hopes of getting off to a strong start. After going 5-0 in the tournament, it is safe to say the Wildkits did just that.
The Kits opened the tournament with a 75-53 victory over Libertyville on Nov. 21. After trailing 19-5 early in that game, the Kits rallied to take a 31-24 halftime lead, thanks to a solid defensive effort from senior Malcolm Townsel on Libertyville’s star Drew Peterson. They never looked back in route to their first win of the season. Then the Kits beat St. Viator on Nov. 22 by a 65-44 score. Seniors Nojel Eastern and Elyjah Williams paced the Kits in that game, scoring 20 and nine points, respectively.
After beating Highland Park on Nov. 23 by a 58-44 tally, and Conant on Nov. 25 with a score of 64-45, the Kits earned a chance to play in the tournament championship game against Prospect on Nov. 26. In that game, the Kits prevailed by a score of 75-63 to capture the tournament title. In that game, Nojel led the way with 24 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter which helped secure the victory. The Kits also got solid performances from Elyjah, who scored 15 points, Senior Chris Hamil added 11 points and sophomore Jaheim Holden tallied 10 points in the victory.
“I thought [the Thanksgiving tournament] was pretty successful for us,” said head coach Mike Ellis, regarding his team’s performance in the tournament. “With each game we played, we seemed to get a little bit better. It was something where progressively we were able to correct mistakes we saw in the earlier games in the tournament towards the end of the tournament.” Coach Ellis continued, “It was great to see our guys close that tournament out as champions and have a 5-0 start to the season.”
The Kits were certainly ready to play in this tournament, as they won each game by at least 10 points. But Coach Ellis feels the key to maintaining this quality level of play will come down to continuing to improve every day. “For us it is just going to be a matter of improving,” explained the Coach. “We have a very challenging schedule, so we need to be able to take our lessons learned from some of these victories and treat it like they were losses, and understand that as our season goes on, [with] the challenges we are going to face, we have got to play better.”
Next up, the Kits will begin the home portion of their schedule when they take on Central Suburban League South Conference foe Niles North on Dec. 2 at Beardsley Gym in Evanston.
Regarding Niles North, Coach Ellis said, “They just finished second in their Thanksgiving tournament. They are very well coached, they play as hard as anybody around, so we definitely have our hands full in our first game in the Conference.” The Coach added, “Anytime you play them, the keys [to victory] are taking care of the basketball. They rely on their pressure defense to create plays offensively and take away scoring opportunities for us. So we have got to be able to play the game fast at the pace they play at, but also make decisions and complete plays.
After the Niles North matchup, the Kits take on Montverde on Dec. 3 at UIC Pavilion as part of the Chicago Elite Classic. After that game, the Kits continue their CSL South Conference schedule with matchups against Niles West on Dec. 9 and archrival New Trier on Dec. 13.