It probably stems from the attitude of a head coach who hangs his program’s hat on how well they play defense every year.
But Evanston’s entire basketball squad knew that the best way to bounce back from their first loss of the season was to deliver on the defensive end Saturday at Mundelein.
Except for a lull in the second quarter, the Wildkits did just that, limiting the Mustangs to a total of five field goals in the entire second half of a 64-37 non-conference victory that upped their record to 5-1 on the season.
The Wildkits recorded 12 steals as a team and limited Mundelein, now 4-2, to 30% shooting from the field. The winners scored 17 straight points to open the game and were led by David Gieser’s 17 points and Rashawn Bost’s 13 points, 9 assists and 3 steals.
ETHS head coach Mike Ellis applauded the turnaround from a unit that allowed 25 first quarter points on Friday night at Glenbrook South and was outscored 16-14 in the second quarter Saturday. Mundelein closed the gap to 34-21 by halftime and that left the Kits less than satisfied in the locker room at intermission.
“I have to credit our kids for feeling a little disappointed about losing that second quarter, and wanting a second chance to show they can make plays at the defensive end,” Ellis said. “I’m certainly not waving the white flag defensively. We’re still learning as a team because of our inexperience.
“When you get to the varsity level you can’t have breakdowns on defense. You have to be connected as one unit, and a lot of the times when it’s happened to us this year, it’s been just one guy who breaks down. And if it was just the same guy all the time, that would be a lot easier to fix, but it’s not.
“Today was a step forward for us because we were able to put 32 minutes together, and play with effort. That was the difference between this game and the GBS game. Effort was a big part of both equations.”
Bost, the lone returning starter this season, was a big part of that early outburst for the visitors. He had a hand in Evanston’s first 11 points of that spurt, feeding Jack Tully for a 12-foot jumper to open the game, firing in a 3-point basket, and then scoring 3 straight buckets after stealing the ball from his bewildered counterpart, Mustang guard Derek Bishop.
Three more baskets by Tully – all 8 of his points came in the first 6 minutes – boosted the lead to 17-0 before Mundelein finally responded with a 3-point basket by Bishop.
But the Mustangs found their footing behind powerful junior forward Chris Martin, who bullied the ETHS big men and muscled his way for 10 points in the second quarter. He mustered just 7 more in the contest thanks mostly to Evanston senior Darryl Jones Jr., who hounded Martin and limited him to 3-of-5 shooting in the entire second half.
Jones also contributed 6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 19 minutes of playing time and figures to move up in the rotation after Saturday’s performance. Also turning in another noteworthy effort was junior guard Jonah Ross, who tallied 8 points before leaving with an injury midway through the second quarter.
“Jonah has given us a spark off the bench two nights in a row now,” Ellis pointed out, “and Darryl is providing energy and athleticism when he comes in there. Darryl’s come here from Florida – he wasn’t in our system as a freshman – and he didn’t make it on the varsity last year. It’s a challenge to come in here and have to adjust to our system, but it’s a credit to him for the way he’s earned a spot this year, and making a difference in that spot.
“Our rotation will become a little more settled when we can create matchups that are an advantage for Evanston and a disadvantage for the other teams. That’s what we’re still learning right now, which matchups will be best.”