Now Evanston’s basketball team is ready for the “real” season.
The Wildkits concluded regular season play with their 8th win in a row Wednesday night at Beardsley Gymnasium, overpowering Glenbrook North 68-47 in the Central Suburban League Showcase contest that matches division champions against each other in one last tuneup for the Illinois High School Association state tournament grind.
Evanston’s planning on a long run — and after improving to 26-4 with Wednesday’s victory, head coach Mike Ellis believes his team is in the right position to do just that.
“I’m ready to start the real season,” said Ellis, who has led two teams to the state championship game during his coaching career and guided the Wildkits to a third place finish in the Class 4A tourney last year. “We fell short of our goal last year, like a lot of teams did, but we have everyone healthy and we’re where we want to be as a team.
“I don’t think momentum is important (despite 8 straight wins). It’s more important not to peak too soon and it doesn’t matter what you did a month ago. The thing about the playoffs is if you don’t show up to play, your season is over. It’s more about playing smart, not beating yourself and doing things with a sense of purpose than it is about momentum.”
Evanston, the No. 1 sectional seed, will host a regional tournament in the Class 4A Niles North Sectional complex and will face the Elk Grove Village-Chicago Taft winner next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at ETHS. Winner of that game will take on either No. 8 seed Notre Dame or No. 10 Maine West in the regional finale on March 1st.
New Trier, Maine South and Niles North own the other top seeds in the sectional. Winner of that sectional advances to the Hoffman Estates Super-Sectional at the Sears Centre on March 12th.
Wednesday, the Wildkits turned in a methodical performance and pulled away from the Spartans after letting the North division champs hang around for the first 15 minutes. Evanston led 33-21 at halftime, then outscored the losers 35-26 in the second half.
Evanston was paced by all-conference selections Lance Jones (18 points, 5 rebounds), Jaheim Holden (13 points, 3 assists) and Blake Peters (9 points). Sophomore Jaylin Gibson contributed 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
Glenbrook North (17-11) was led by Alex Press with 12 points. The visitors shot just 37 percent (18-of-49) from the floor and turned the ball over 18 times.
“One thing we’ve been talking about is that we have to play more fundamentally,” Ellis pointed out. “We don’t want to win with flash — we want to win with fundamentals. The teams that execute for longer periods of times are the teams that win in the playoffs.
“Tonight we has some peaks and valleys in our play. We came out for the second half a little more solid, a little more determined, and a little more tight in terms of our execution, and that’s why we got better shots. This was our final opportunity to go into the postseason playing our ‘A’ game.”
After Holden scored all of his points in the first half, teammate Jones took over and splurged for 10 points in the third quarter as ETHS finally got its transition game into gear. Evanston led 46-31 after three quarters and stretched the lead to as many as 27 points before Ellis dug even deeper into his bench.
Eleven different players scored for the winners, who have only lost once on their homecourt this season.