Unlike the first time the two teams met, Evanston played some serious defense Friday night against Glenbrook South.
How serious? Evanston senior Ryan Bost asked for the chance to guard 6-foot-4 South star Dom Martinelli — a player who is six inches taller than he is — and played a big role in a rewarding 50-41 victory for the Wildkits in Central Suburban South division action at Beardsley Gymnasium.
Bost’s close attention limited Martinelli to exactly half of the 34 points he racked up the first time the two teams met back in December. Friday, Martinelli needed 17 shots to score a mere 5 field goals, and 4 of those buckets came on offensive putbacks when Bost was on the bench resting.
The revenge win kept Evanston, now 18-3 overall, tied with New Trier atop the division standings and all but knocked GBS (14-5 overall, 3-3 league) out of the CSL South race.
Jaylin Gibson (13 points, 5 rebounds), Blake Peters (12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals), Bost (11 points, 3 steals) and Jaheim Holden (11 points) all reached double figures for the winners, who turned in an effort far superior to that 61-54 loss at GBS in the conference opener.
ETHS never trailed in the contest and broke the defensive duel open by capitalizing on transition opportunities in the fourth quarter against a deliberate Titan team. GBS only attempted 38 field goals as a team, with Martinelli accounting for almost half of those tries.
Wildkit fans are used to seeing the disruptive defense played by Bost against opposing point guards, a skill that has earned him a spot in the starting lineup since he was a sophomore. The Evanston senior took on a different challenge Friday night and played so hard that he had to go to the bench with cramps in both legs for the last four minutes of the game.
No pain, no gain if you ask Bost.
“I haven’t had cramps like that since I was in 8th grade — but it was worth it,” Bost said. “I just decided this week that I wanted to take initiative and guard the other team’s toughest player, with the intensity that we didn’t have in the first game against them.
“What I learned from that first game was that you can’t underestimate any team you play. We came into that one a little cocky and GBS really gave it to us. They outplayed us in every way. This week we came into the game with the mindset that we had to play harder than the other team.
“It definitely hurt to watch him (Martinelli) score 30 points in that first game. I took it personally and I take every loss personally, because we know how good we are.”
Martinelli didn’t score a field goal until the 2:22 mark of the second quarter and by then the hosts had built a 20-9 advantage. ETHS led 23-14 at halftime, then saw that lead melt down to just 29-26 after three quarters.
“I just wanted to force him to take bad shots,” said Bost of the decisive matchup. “I didn’t want to give him any open layups. If he got the ball down in the paint, I just tried to play straight up on him. I did have a bunch of cramps in the fourth quarter. After I got that assist to Jaheim (for a 40-28 advantage with 4 minutes left) I just couldn’t get up.”
With Bost on the bench, the Kits sealed the victory by converting all 8 of their free throw opportunities, including 4 in a row by sophomore Peters.
“Ryan’s the type of person who loves to take on a challenge, and he wanted to take Martinelli, even though he was out-sized, ” said ETHS head coach Mike Ellis. “We give our kids that kind of freedom. We wanted to give him the opportunity, and he did a great job. Martinelli is a tough guy to cover and he was definitely the focus of our defense tonight.
“That last game against them showed our guys that you have to show up to win, you can’t just go out and play. GBS deserved to win that one. Effort is very crucial in terms of winning and losing, and we’ve been playing much too casual on defense lately. We were a lot more focused tonight.
“GBS really makes you guard them. They throw a lot of passes and they run a lot of down screens and back screens. We were a lot more alert on defense tonight.”
Evanston outscored the Titans 11-2 in the first half of the final quarter, with half of those points coming in rare transition situations against the plodding visitors.
“There was a middle segment of the game where they took it to us,” Ellis acknowledged, “in the last 4 minutes of the 2nd quarter and we lost the third quarter, too. We came out lethargic out of halftime, and it showed.
“That first GBS game was exactly 50 days ago and our goal is always to hold the other team under 50. We must have talked about the No. 50 about 50 times this week. That was the magic number.”