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After beating archrival New Trier on Dec. 13, the Evanston Township High School boys’ basketball team traveled to Akron, Ohio to participate in the third annual LeBron James Classic on Dec. 17 and 18.
On Dec. 17, the Wildkits took on St. Vincent St. Mary, LeBron’s alma mater, and beat the Irish 72-66. In that game, the Kits held a 61-46 lead with four and a half minutes remaining, but the Irish refused to quit as they got to within four with just under 40 seconds remaining. But fortunately, the Kits were able to hang on the rest of the way to improve to 9-1 overall. Leading the way for the Kits was senior Elyjah Williams, who scored 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out four assists. In addition, sophomore Ryan Bost scored a career-high 15 points, senior Malcolm Townsel contributed 12 points, and sophomore Jaheim Holden chipped in 10 points in the victory.
The next day, the Kits took on Pickerington North and prevailed by a score of 57-50. The Kits turned the ball over 18 times and almost let a late lead slip away in the final moments for the second consecutive night, but fortunately they were able to get just enough scoring and played solid defense down the stretch to hang on. Against Pickerington, Malcolm led the Kits with 15 points, while Chris Hamil scored 14 points and Jaheim poured in 10 points.
“It went really well,” said head coach Mike Ellis regarding his team’s performance in the two-day shootout event. “Being down one of your best players [senior Nojel Eastern] for a game and a half [due to foul trouble in the first game and a sprained ankle in the second game] our guys stepped up and it was a true team effort to come out of there 2-0.”
Regarding Malcolm’s performance against Pickerington, Coach Ellis said, “He played really well. Both him and Chris stepped up in Nojel’s absence and played real solid on both ends of the floor for us, honestly.”
In earning two victories in Ohio, the Kits improved to 10-1 overall, and Coach Ellis is pleased with how the season is going so far. “It is going well. We have been challenged, we have met some challenges and every game out for us is a learning experience and an opportunity to prove [ourselves],” the Coach explained. “We have a big week in front of us in Myrtle Beach [South Carolina] but with all of our shootouts, and our non-conference schedule, the guys have done a great job of responding to those challenges.”
The next set of challenges comes when the Kits travel to South Carolina to participate in the Beach Ball Classic, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Regarding that tournament, Coach Ellis said, “We know it is going to be real tough. We are going up against some national competition, so it is going to be tough.” The Coach explained, “We are going to have to make sure that we get quality possessions at both ends of the floor. When you play against teams that talented, you have to take care of the basketball on offense, make good decisions, and we have to be really sound on defense because a lot of those teams are not filled with just one Division I player, they have two or three Division I players and a lot of depth. So Add Articlethere is really no room for error when you play teams like that.”
The Kits opened the tournament on Dec. 26 with a 53-52 victory over Providence. Sophomore Lance Jones scored 15 points and had six steals, two of which resulted in buckets in the final minutes to help secure the victory. With the victory, the Kits’ record improved to 11-1 overall and gained a No. 4 ranking Statewide.