Nothing pleases a high school basketball player more than watching the ball go through the net.

And Evanston found plenty of satisfaction watching that happen over and over – and over and over again Friday night in Skokie.

A team that has struggled all season on offense put it all together in the Central Suburban League South division finale, tying a school record with 17 three-point field goals in a 79-43 drilling of Niles West.

Career-high games from seniors Aidan Maher (20 points) and David Gieser (25) helped the Wildkits convert an astonishing 17-of-31 attempts from beyond the three-point arc. That effort tied the single game team mark set by the 2018-19 squad in a 95-63 pasting of University Heights, Kentucky at the King of the Bluegrass holiday tournament that year.

Evanston’s sharpshooting performance included a season-high 26 assists leading to 30 field goals and 57% marksmanship from the floor overall. Rashawn Bost totaled 9 assists for the winners, now 18-9 on the season and 5-5 in league play.

Maher, the team captain who averages just a couple of points a game, was only in the starting lineup because freshman Yaris Irby missed a practice due to illness this week. Maher made the most of his chance by connecting on all 7 of his field goal attempts – including 6 from three-point range.

The only time Maher was stopped wasn’t by the Niles West defense. When Emery Jones leaped to the floor to chase down a loose ball right in front of the ETHS bench late in the second quarter, he managed to nudge the ball ahead to Maher while head coach Mike Ellis was trying to call a timeout to save the possession.

By the time Ellis’ timeout was acknowledged, Maher had turned and swished a 25-footer. It didn’t count, of course.

“That was my defense first philosophy [in action],” Ellis kidded. “Aidan is our captain for a reason, and he’s always been that talented. We want him to be a big part of what we do and he always does a great job of letting the game come to him. He doesn’t force things, although sometimes we get on him to be a little more aggressive. I’m so happy for him, to see him play that well.

“Our guys found a good rhythm tonight and it was because they found holes [in the defense] for their teammates, instead of for themselves. We fed off of Aidan and David and we had more assists than we’ve ever had in a game since I’ve been here. We definitely shared the basketball tonight. We moved the ball well, and this time we didn’t turn it over much.”

Maher has started on occasion this year and the offense has run more efficiently when the senior is on the court, although the Wildkits haven’t ever knocked down shots like this before.

“For me it was just about staying ready when the opportunity came and then try to make the best of it,” he said. “I come in and shoot a lot in the mornings,” referring to his usual 100 free throw attempts and 100 three-point attempts, “and good things come when you work hard like that.

“I see myself as an unselfish player [read pass first, shoot second] and today was just my day. They were faceguarding Rashawn and I was left open. We found a lot of gaps in their zone and that’s because the coaches have worked with us all week against zone defenses. They did a good job of drawing up plays for us, and we did a good job of executing as a team.”

West decided to concentrate on Bost right from the start after the senior burned the Wolves for a game-high 16 points the last time the two teams met. The hosts came out in what Ellis described as a T and 1 – what looked like a 1-3 zone with a defender chasing Bost wherever he went.

That strategy didn’t last long. The Wildkits poured in 20 points in the first quarter and led 38-21 at halftime.

It was Gieser’s turn to shine in the second half. He erupted for 19 points in the third quarter and connected on 4 straight bombs from beyond the arc, finishing with a 7-of-11 showing from deep and also grabbing 5 rebounds.

In all, 5 different players tossed in three-point baskets for the winners, who scored their first road triumph in league play.

ETHS will play a CSL crossover game on Tuesday at Highland Park for the regular season finale. The Wildkits learned last week that they have been seeded fifth in the Class 4A Glenbrook South Sectional tournament complex, behind Glenbrook South, New Trier, Rolling Meadows and Glenbrook North. Evanston will host its own regional tournament and will play No. 12 seed Schaumburg on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. Glenbrook North and No. 13 Taft will meet in the other semifinal on that date, with the winners advancing to the regional championship game set for Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. at Beardsley Gym.  

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