After capturing victories in their previous six games, the Evanston Township High School boys basketball team looked to make it seven wins in a row when they took on arch-rival New Trier on Feb. 16. But unfortunately that was not in the cards, as the Wildkits fell to the Trevians by a score of 56-40.
In that game, the Kits hung with the Trevians in the first half, as they trailed by 4, 27-23 at halftime.
But from there, the visiting Trevians pulled away as they outscored the Kits 29-17 in the second half, holding the Kits to a season-low 40 points. Junior guards Lance Jones and Jaheim Holden led the Kits’ scoring attack, each scoring 12 points. With the loss, the Kits fell to 20-5 overall and 8-2 in Central Suburban League South Conference play.
“It was not one of our better performances, as we lacked some energy and effort,” said head coach Mike Ellis, regarding his team’s performance against New Trier.
“We were just not focused mentally. [You] can say we just did not make shots, and those two things combined to contribute to not making shots.” The Coach continued, “There are team wins and there are team losses and the New Trier game was one of those team losses, where each one of [our players] will tell you they could have done more.”
When asked what positives the team can take away from the New Trier loss, Coach Ellis said, “I think one of the positives that we recognized is preparation and practices leading up to those games. We had a couple practices [prior to the New Trier game] where we were not focused, and I think it transitioned over into the game,” the Coach explained.
“We are looking forward to our final game on Feb. 20 against Vernon Hills. So we will get a couple practices in [before that game] and we have got a long preparation for our first game in Regionals. So it will be the perfect time to learn those lessons and get back in the gym and try to get better to make a long run in the playoffs,” the coach said.
Regarding how he feels the season is going Coach Ellis said, “It is going very well. I told the team that we are all disappointed that we did not play our best in the last game in Beardsley Gym, but that does not take away from the fact that we won so many close games.
“For a team that did not have a lot of experience and a go-to 20-point-scorer-a-game guy, for us to win a lot of overtime games [3-0 in overtime games] and we won two games by a basket in CSL South Conference play, and that is the reason we are sitting at 8-2 in CSL South Conference right next to New Trier who is 8-1 with one game to go. So they cannot forget about all the great games they have played and how they have closed out games where they were not favored to win. We just have to build on the one poor performance [against New Trier] and use that to motivate us going forward.”
After the Vernon Hills game in the regular season finale, the Kits, who earned a No. 1 seed in the IHSA Class 4A Maine East Sectional field, open postseason play on Feb. 26 when they take on the winner of Glenbrook South and Taft in the Glenbrook South Regional semifinal. If the Kits win that game, they would play for the Regional title on March 2.
As the Kits enter the postseason, Coach Ellis feels his team simply needs to play to their strengths in order to make a lengthy run.
“The keys to success in the playoffs are going to be playing to our strengths. That is not the time of year to start trying to do more than you are capable of. Teams that advance the farthest are the ones that are obviously the most talented and play the hardest, they are also the ones that play the smartest,” said Coach Ellis.
“So we have gone through the season now where we know what we are good at and we know what gets us into trouble. So we have to put personal agendas aside and have one common team goal and play to our strengths and stay away from our weaknesses,” the coach said.