After finishing in third place in the 76th annual Centralia Holiday Tournament, the Evanston Township High School boys basketball team looked to keep that momentum going when they took on Niles West on Jan. 4.
The Wildkits were able to do just that as they beat the host Wolves by a score of 63-51. In that game, the Kits jumped out to an 11-2 lead with 4:05 remaining in the first quarter, as sophomore Blake Peters and senior Ryan Bost combined for the team’s first 11 points.
The Wolves responded to make it a 19-16 game through one quarter. In the second quarter, both teams each scored 14 points as the Kits would maintain that three-point lead at the intermission, making it 33-30.
To start the third quarter Blake hit two three-pointers, which he also did to open the game, to extend the Kits’ lead to 39-30 with 5:40 left in the third.
From there, after playing to a 46-38 score through three quarters, senior Lance Jones extended the lead to 49-38 when he hit a shot and a free throw after being fouled with 7:08 remaining.
The Wolves then hit a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to get back to within 49-41 with 6:47 remaining, but that would be the closest they would get as the Kits went on a 14-10 run to close out the victory.
“Pretty solid,” said head coach Mike Ellis when asked to evaluate his team’s performance.
“That is a good team of all guards. There is not a player on their team that cannot skillfully dribble, pass and shoot. So they can make you pay if you are out of position with any player on the floor,” the Coach said.
“They test your defense, they are well-coached. Coming back the first game of a road trip on the road after a break, I thought our guys did a good job of coming out ready to play.
“If they come out and get on us 11-2 this whole [game] could have been a different story. So you always worry about the first game back from a break, new year, first game, but it was not hard to sell these guys to play hard, because, here we are [on Jan. 4], and we have not won a road [Central Suburban League South Conference] game yet.
“We have only had one but we lost it [to Glenbrook South on Nov. 29]. So this is our first win on the road in the Conference and I think our guys wanted that to come [against Niles West] and not two or three weeks from now.”
The Kits’ next CSL South Conference road game is a matchup with Maine South on Jan. 25.
With the victory, the Kits improved to 16-3 overall and 3-1 in CSL South Conference play. Blake led the Kits scoring attack with 23 points, followed by Lance with 14 and Ryan who added 11 in the victory.
“Blake was good. Not just putting the ball in the basket, but he crashed the boards,” said Coach Ellis.
“He gave us a presence in the paint. We have talked to him about improving his rebounding numbers. It is not just Blake, it is all those guys. But it is good to see Blake take that point of emphasis to heart and say, ‘Yes, this team does need some added rebounding.’
“Right now we have one solid rebounder in sophomore Jaylin Gibson, and that is not enough.”
The Coach continued, “Jaylin has by far and away doubled up everybody else in rebounds this season and we need more alongside Jaylin in the paint rebounding and making plays.”
When asked how pleasing it was to see his team pull away in the second half after playing a close first half, Coach Ellis said, “It could have gone either way. The guys did a good job of coming out focused and ready to play. We continued to find Blake and he hit his shots.”
The Coach explained, “I thought their shots were easier than ours for a period of time during that game. I think they guarded better than us. So that what we talked about at halftime is let’s make their shots more difficult than ours are because at halftime it was the opposite.
“They were getting layups and getting to the free throw line. Although Blake had hit some three-pointers, the majority of our possessions were harder to make than their shots. That comes down to adjusting at the defensive end.”
Next the Kits take on archrival New Trier on Jan. 11 at Beardsley Gym in Evanston. From there, they play Glenbrook South on Jan. 18 and Bolingbrook the next day as part of the ninth annual “War on the Shore” shootout.