For three quarters of Tuesday’s Class 4A Illinois High School Association regional tournament basketball game, there was a very real possibility that Glenbrook South would finish the game with more turnovers than actual points scored.
That’s how relentless Evanston’s defense was as the Wildkits throttled the Titans 51-38 and advanced to the regional championship game set for Friday night at 7 p.m. at GBS. Evanston, now 22-5, will take on Niles Notre Dame, which eliminated Maine West 61-56 in the other semifinal game.
Coach Mike Ellis’ squad forced a total of 24 turnovers and held the Titans scoreless for 4-minute stretches in both the second and fourth quarters. GBS scored just 1 point in the first 4 minutes of the third period. It marked the second time in three meetings that the Titans failed to reach the 40-point mark as a team against ETHS.
South went to the sidelines with a final record of 9-19 as the Wildkits sprung traps on the helpless GBS guards. Junior Lance Jones led the way with 5 steals for the winners and freshman Jaylin Gibson added 4. Jaheim Holden (20 points) and Jones (14) were the only ETHS players to reach double figures on offense.
“Our offense wasn’t very efficient tonight, so it was the defense that kept us alive,” Ellis pointed out. “I just don’t think we valued the basketball enough tonight and we turned it right back over to them 17 times.
“The thing about GBS is that they test your fortitude with a lot of passes and multiple actions (on offense). But our guys didn’t rest on defense and any mistakes we made were effort mistakes. We can live with that. Defensively we played a little more secure than the last time we were here (60-58 overtime win). We played better this time.”
Evanston couldn’t pull away from the Titans until the third quarter, when they outscored the hosts 9-1 in the first four minutes. Four different players contributed to that surge, as Ryan Bost converted a drive, Blake Peters drilled a 3-point shot, and both Matt Hall and Holden converted a pair of free throws that helped build the lead to 28-16.
A ferocious tip-dunk by Jones, who flew in from the left wing and cleaned up a missed 3-point shot by Peters, sent the Kits to a 35-20 lead before the Titans regrouped slightly to trail 37-27 after three quarters.
Holden tallied 6 points in the final period and his 20-point performance included a perfect 7-of-7 showing at the free throw line.
Glenbrook South shot just 35 percent (16-of-45) from the field and was paced by Jimmy McMahon’s 13 points.