Evanton’s basketball team didn’t show Mather much respect Saturday night at Beardsley Gymnasium.
And a Wildkit team that hasn’t needed to absorb a loss to learn valuable lessons so far this year almost learned the hard way.
Junior Jaylin Gibson spearheaded a strong team defensive effort in the fourth quarter, good enough to bail out unbeaten Evanston on their way to a 53-41 triumph.
The Wildkits, now 16-0, trailed at halftime for only the second time this season and were locked in a 36-36 tie with the Rangers after 3 quarters before finally establishing control following a lackluster performance.
Mather, a 20-point loser to a Niles West team the Kits crushed just 24 hours earlier, went scoreless for the first 5 minutes of the final period, committed 7 turnovers in that stretch and was outscored 17-5 with the game on the line.
Gibson’s hard-nosed defense on the perimeter was responsible for most of those 7 turnovers, and he netted 4 free throws — while also missing 3 — in the fourth quarter to help the hosts score a less-than-impressive win.
Blake Peters and Isaiah Holden each scored 13 points for the winners and Gibson added 9 after spending much of the first half on the bench due to foul trouble. Mather, which turned the ball over 25 times, was led by Time Odueyunbgo with 18 points.
Evanston head coach Mike Ellis agreed that his squad hardly resembled the team ranked No. 2 in the latest Class 4A state rankings, and the Wildkits heard the chant “Overrated! Overrated!” from the crowd for the first time this year.
“We didn’t play well tonight,” Ellis said. “I just felt like we really weren’t locked in at all. For the first time this year, I felt like they didn’t respect who they were playing.
“We’ve talked a lot about learning from our wins this year, and there was a lot for us to learn tonight.”
The Kits couldn’t be accused of not playing well on the defensive end. They held the visitors scoreless for almost 6 full minutes in the second quarter, but 3-point baskets by Odueyungbo and Mickeael Allen in the last 2 minutes were good enough to give the Rangers a 23-22 edge at the halftime break.
Only a 30-foot, 3-point bomb by Peters to beat the third quarter buzzer kept the Wildkits from trailing entering the fourth quarter. Sophomore Rashawn Bost fired in a 3-point shot on Evanston’s first possession of the final quarter, and the Kits scored the rest of their points on 12-of-17 marksmanship at the free throw line to secure the victory.