Kenwood sank 6- of-8 free throw attempts in the final 31 seconds to fight off an Evanston comeback attempt and chalked up a 66-64 upset victory over the Wildkits Tuesday night at Beardsley Gymnasium.
The Broncos, who entered the contest with a mediocre 9-15 won-loss record, never trailed in the contest while dropping the hosts to 24-4.
Evanston played without Jaylin Gibson (wrist injury) for the second straight game and allowed the visitors to shoot 61 percent from the field. The loss spoiled Senior Night for ETHS and ruined the last chance the Wildkits had to make a statement for seeding for the upcoming Class 4A Elk Grove Sectional tournament.
Gibson’s injury — he could be cleared to play for Friday’s Central Suburban League South division showdown against Glenbrook South, or he could be out for the season —and the adversity the Kits might have to overcome was less a concern for ETHS head coach Mike Ellis than his team’s sub-par performance at the defensive end.
The Kits didn’t help themselves on the offensive end, either, shooting just 33 percent overall (19-of-57) and a poor 6-of-28 from 3-point range.
“I’m worried about our defense, not about any adversity,” Ellis said. “Kenwood doubled our field goal percentage tonight and you’ll lose a lot of games when you let that happen.
“We didn’t play smart. Our communication wasn’t there, we didn’t rotate in the right spots, and late in the game we gave up two offensive rebounds on missed free throws. All of that catches up with you. We played too passive, and we played too comfortable.”
The Wildkits endured one of their worst 8-minute stretches of the season in the third quarter, converting only 4-of-16 field goal tries and surrendering 20 points to fall behind 46-38. Kenwood still led 58-47 with 4 minutes, 40 seconds remaining and then the hosts finally came alive.
Three-point plays by Elijah Bull, Blake Peters and Isaiah Holden pulled the Kits within 60-59 with just 59 seconds left on the clock. But the Chicago team showed poise down the stretch, and 6-foot-7 Darnell King grabbed his only two offensive rebounds on the night the only time the visitors misfired at the free throw line.
King finished with 18 points — all of them coming in the second half — and Roland McCoy netted 24 for the winners.
Holden’s team-high 20 points including a 10-of-11 effort at the free throw line, and Bull and Peters contributed 15 apiece in a losing cause.
Ellis started all 3 seniors —seldom-used Colin Farragher, DeVaughn Bell and Jerome Smith, but even a 3-point shot by Farragher couldn’t keep the Kits from trailing 16-11 at the first quarter break. The Broncos clung to a 26-24 advantage at halftime.