The Evanston Township High School boys’ basketball team entered a matchup with Niles North on Jan. 20 in search of their third straight win, which they got as they beat the Vikings by a score of 72-59 in Niles.
After trailing 18-11 in the first quarter, the Wildkits rallied to tie the game at 22 when senior Nojel Eastern nailed a three-pointer with 4 minutes 37 seconds remaining in the half. He then gave the Kits the lead with a basket with 3 minutes 36 seconds remaining. From there, the Kits took a 32-28 lead into the intermission.
In the third, the Kits extended the lead to seven at 40-33 when senior Malcolm Townsel scored with 4 minutes 26 seconds remaining in the period. But the Vikings were able to keep within striking distance as they entered the fourth quarter trailing only 46-42, and they would get to within one basket at 46-44 when they scored with 7 minutes 45 seconds remaining.
But from there, the Kits put the game out of reach over the next several minutes with a 20-6 run capped off by a basket from sophomore Jaheim Holden to make it a 66-50 contest with 3 minutes 3 seconds remaining, and the Kits held on for the victory. Leading the way for the Kits were Nojel (20 points), Jaheim (15 points), senior Elyjah Williams (14 points), and Malcolm (12 points) as the Kits beat the Vikings for the second time this year.
“I thought we played better in the second half,” explained head coach Mike Ellis. “In the first half, I thought we played into their hands, and we tried to do things too individually, but in the second half I thought we did things better collectively, as a five-person unit.”
The Coach added, “I do not think [Nojel and Elyjah] had enough touches. Those are two guys who are tough covers for the other team. We have to find a way to play through those guys and get the ball in their hands more to make decisions and plays, but we did that better in the second half.”
Coach Ellis attributed his team’s ability to pull away early in the fourth quarter, simply to playing together as a team throughout the second half. Coach Ellis said, “In the second half, we were playing together better as a team. We made smarter decisions, hit the open man, and moved the basketball more.”
With the victory over Niles North, the Kits improved to 16-2 overall and 6-0 in Central Suburban League South Conference play with the postseason fast approaching. When asked what the keys to success will be for the rest of the season, Coach Ellis said, “To be a little smarter and a little tougher. Those are the things [against Niles North] that I thought there were times that we were not [smart and tough]. So we have to be tougher and smarter going forward and grow into those where we bring those every night.”
After the Niles North victory, the Kits took on Naperville North the next night at the When Sides Collide Shootout at Glenbard East High School. Prior to that matchup, Coach Ellis said, “It is not going to be easy. That is a team with eight or nine seniors. They are going to look to make a statement win [(as the Kits were ranked No. 2 in a recent Chicago area poll] and they are going to be ready to play.” Unfortunately, Coach Ellis, as the Kits fell to Naperville North in overtime by a score of 65-63. Nojel led the Kits with 30 points in that game. With the loss, the Kits fell to 16-3 overall.
Next up, the Kits return home to Beardsley Gym in Evanston to take on Niles West on Jan. 27 followed by Homewood-Flossmoor as part of the War on the Shore event on Jan. 28.