Senior guard Isaiah Holden set a single game school record for steals and Blake Peters poured in a team-high 22 points Saturday at Beardsley Gym as Evanston’s basketball team picked up where it left off last year.

The Wildkits crushed Vernon Hills 81-60 in an impressive season debut in front of a crowd of about two dozen spectators under the new coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Surgical masks for all of the participants are part of the new norm, but the Kits as a team appeared to be in whatever passes for “mid-season form” in a 5-week abbreviated regular season and looked just like the team that reached the Class 4A sectional tournament finals a year ago.

Holden’s 9 steals were part of a swarming defensive team effort that spurred the hosts to a 23-8 first quarter advantage. Peters, Jaheim Holden and Karlton Mims all shared the previous record at 8. As a team the Wildkits were credited with 24 steals, likely another single game record.

By halftime, Vernon Hills had almost as many turnovers (22) as points (23) and the visitors trailed 42-23. They never got closer than 18 points in the second half, even though ETHS head coach Mike Ellis cleared his bench and a total of 12 players got on the court for the winners  in the second half.

Joining Peters in double figures were Elijah Bull with 17 points, Holden with 13, and Rashawn Bost with 11.

“Our defense helped our offense today,” said Ellis. “We have multiple guys who can defend on the ball and our defense is our strength. I thought today we did a good job of anticipating, not playing desperate defense or gambling. We made a lot of solid defensive plays without being out of position.

“Itchy Holden and Elijah Bull were really good today on defense for us. Some college coaches need to start watching them play, because they’re (future) point guards who will advance others’ programs.”

Evanston rattled off 16 unanswered points to open the game, including 6 free throws by Holden and 3-point buckets by Bull and Peters. Vernon Hills only got off 1 field goal attempt in the first 4 minutes while turning the ball over 9 times.

Things never got much better for the losers, although junior Erik Rims fired in a game-high 27 points (6-of-11 from 3-point range) and Josiah McDonald netted 18. Rims tallied 10 of his points in the final 4 minutes against the ETHS bench.

Any reference to last year would bring to mind, at least to the head coach’s mind, that the concerns are the same too for a team that fields a starting unit consisting of 4 guards.

“What concerns me the most now is our rebounding,” Ellis explained. “I wasn’t overly impressed with the way we rebounded (the Cougars led that stat category 31-28). As soon as we have guards who enjoy getting a rebound as much as they enjoy getting a 3 (basket), we’ll get closer to our potential as a team.”

Evanston plays its first road game next Tuesday at Maine West.