Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!
Evanston’s stranglehold on the Central Suburban League South division basketball championship has to end at some point.
But if 2021 is the year, it might have as much to do with the players who aren’t on the court as with the ones who are.
Worn down by a tough stretch of games in the second-to-last week of a concentrated schedule, the Wildkits couldn’t match their stirring performance just 12 hours earlier against the same foe and bowed to arch-rival New Trier 35-34 at Beardsley Gym in one of the lowest-scoring games in the history of the head-to-head series.
The loss spoiled the 9th annual Bost Family Basketball Classic, a celebration of the late Bob Bost, who coached baseball and basketball at ETHS for 27 years. The event took on added poignancy with a video of his grandson, Ryan, a former Wildkit player who was murdered last spring.
The setback also may have spoiled Evanston’s bid for at least a share of a seventh straight conference title. The Wildkits are now tied with New Trier, one game behind Glenbrook South in the standings, and will need a Trevian victory over GBS in a Monday makeup game plus a win of their own in the regular season finale next Wednesday versus Maine South to keep that streak alive.
The loss to the Trevians on Saturday still left Evanston with the all-time lead of 121 wins to New Trier’s 96 in the series. It came at the end of a grueling week in which the Kits were minus three players due to academic ineligibility, causing the starters to play to the point of exhaustion that they reached on Saturday.
Just hours after tossing in a season-high 11 3-point field goals, Evanston shot just 6-of-20 from beyond the arc. Only another stellar (and exhausting) defensive performance against a bigger foe kept them in contention until Blake Peters’ 3-point attempt bounded off the back iron at the final buzzer.
Between them, the senior trio of Peters, Isaiah Holden and Daeshawn Hemphill shot a combined 1-of-21 from the field. Junior Rashawn Bost and senior Elijah Bull topped the losers with 14 and 13 points, respectively. New Trier didn’t place a single individual in double figures.
The defeat dropped ETHS to 13-2 overall, 7-2 in league play, and head coach Mike Ellis’ mood was a stark contrast to the Friday night encounter between the two rivals that he described as “one of the best wins I’ve ever been part of.”
“We just lost control of our own destiny,” said Ellis. “You can’t have discipline on the court if you don’t have it in the classroom. We had three guys sitting there in jeans who were lazy. They took a month off (academically) and they’ll make that up in 4 days, so that tells you how lazy they were. There’s no smoke and mirrors here. This is what happens when people you rely on don’t go to class. We had to shorten our bench because of that this week.
“That was a great effort on defense, especially since it was our 5th game in a week. We had a dead stretch at the end (2 points in the final 3 minutes, 36 seconds) and we also had one in the third quarter. That’s on our decision-making. We over-dribbled, we didn’t move the ball, and every shot we shot was awful. I felt like we only saw 1 pass ahead, not the 2 that would cause their defense to have to rotate more. We didn’t set each other up well enough.”
Trailing 26-23 after three quarters, the hosts summoned up one last scoring burst with Bost, Ryan’s younger brother, contributing a steal for a layup and then a drive to the basket to tie the contest at 30-all. Peters also drove the lane, for his only basket of the game, and Bost scored on a feed and penetration from Holden against New Trier’s 1-3-1 zone trap with 1:16 left on the clock for a 34-33 ETHS lead.
New Trier countered on a 13-foot shot in the lane from Josh Kirkpatrick (9 points), and that accounted for the final margin when Peters misfired from 22 feet.