Fans in the stands at Glenbrook North Saturday probably weren’t impressed by Evanston’s basketball team.
They might have wondered just how the Wildkits were ranked No. 3 in Class 4A in the first Associated Press state poll, especially considering Saturday’s 53-43 triumph over the Spartans marked their closest game of the season.
But proving that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the view from the coach’s chair was anything but gloomy.
What ETHS head coach Mike Ellis saw was a team that executed almost flawlessly in the halfcourt offense and received an unexpected offensive boost from sophomore forward Prince Adams as the Wildkits kept their perfect record intact.
Now 7-0 overall and 4-0 in Central Suburban League South division play, the visitors shot 49 percent from the floor. Adams sank 9 points in the fourth quarter alone — on 4-of-4 shooting from the field — on his way to an 11-point outing.
Not bad for someone who was playing on the sophomore team a year ago at this time and probably couldn’t always remember his locker combination, like a lot of freshmen.
GBN, which was blown out 65-38 when the two teams met on Friday, put up a stiffer struggle the second time around and only trailed 37-28 entering the fourth quarter.
That’s when the 6-foot-5 Adams, who replaced foul-plagued starter Ola Ajiboye, started abusing GBN defenders Patrick Schaller and Chase Oblonsky. He scored a layup off a feed from Itchy Holden, drove to the hoop for another score, and scored underneath on an old-fashioned 3-point play that pushed the ETHS lead to 46-31 with 4:40 left in the game.
GBN never got closer than 7 points the rest of the way as the Kits utilized their spread offense in the last 3 minutes and Holden (9 points) sealed the win with 3 free throws in the final 60 seconds.
Rashawn Bost, with 10 points, was the only other Evanston player in double figures. GBN was sparked by Ryan Cohen’s 15 points and 12 from Oblonsky.
Ellis insisted he’d enjoy watching the film of his team’s closest win to date.
“We didn’t shoot well from 3 (only 3-of-16 from beyond the arc) and we had some communication breakdowns, where we didn’t have all 5 guys on the same page,” he said, “but we also had moments where we were really connected on offense and on defense.
“I thought our execution was really solid. We executed a lot of our sets as well as we ever have in the past. Usually our flow game (transition game keyed by defense, rebounding leading to open court opportunities) is what’s good and we’d have breakdowns when we run sets. Not today. That’s why I didn’t really think we were in jeopardy (in the fourth quarter) because we were running our sets so well. I just felt that if we had to run something, I was confident we’d score.”
Evanston shot 20-of-41 in the road win, despite knocking down just 3-of-10 shots in the second quarter. The Spartans stayed within 27-17 in a low-scoring half for both squads, after missing 10 of their first 11 shots to fall behind.
Adams supplied the finishing touch and reinforced the promise the ETHS coaching staff believes in regarding his “high ceiling” as a player.
“Prince and Ola are in new roles for us this year, but they should still be dominating on the boards more,” said Ellis, noting that 6-1 Blake Peters led the way Saturday with 10 rebounds for the winners. “In their roles they need to step up to that level.
“Our guard play was really solid and Prince helped by finishing around the basket in the fourth quarter. I’m really excited about Prince, because he’s been steadily improving, practice to practice, week to week. He’s elevated his game and it’s just a matter of time for him.
“Our object as a team, too, is just to get better every day. We want to make sure our path continues to progress, not regress. We don’t have time this season (already at the halfway point) to back-track at all. I know we still have room to get better.”