One of the reasons high school basketball coaches schedule Thanksgiving tournaments is to help them get an early handle on just who can deliver on the court when necessary, following a season of turnover in their programs.
Evanston Township High School Coach Mike Ellis got some help trying to sort out his own roster in the next-to-last round of the Saint Viator Thanksgiving Classic at Friday’s matinee matchup against Prospect High School.
Game officials whistled two fouls apiece on all five of Evanston’s starters in the first half, and Ellis had to dig deep into his bench to find quality minutes as the Wildkits scored their third straight victory, downing the Prospect Knights 59-46.
The ETHS defending tourney champs took one step closer to a repeat title at the annual round-robin event that concludes at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, against host St. Viator.
Prince Adams, one of those players who suffered early foul difficulties, still totaled career highs in points (19), rebounds (17) and blocked shots (5) in about 24 minutes of actual playing time. Hunter Duncan added 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists for the winners.
A constant theme for Ellis during his tenure at ETHS has been for ALL of the players on the roster to find – and accept – their roles to help build overall success for the team. So the veteran coach had no problem accepting the foul trouble while seeing more of the reserves in action than he might have anticipated.
“The officiating didn’t bother me today,” he said. “We always ask them to just play through the calls, good or bad. We try to take the calls with poise every time.
“It’s not a hard and fast rule for me, but nine out of 10 times if you get your second foul (in the first half) we’ll take you out because we want to protect your minutes in the second half. I think that shows that we have the confidence that we can have the others come in and try to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish as a team.
“Playing time is earned and nothing is settled yet (in Evanston’s rotation). It depends on matchups, who knows the plays best, who knows their assignments. We’re constantly evaluating who deserves minutes and everybody should feel they’re a part of the solution.”
Evanston led 19-12 on a 3-point bucket by Jonah Ross when the fouls started to pile up early in the second quarter. Duncan, Ross and Adams each picked up their second personals, but the Kits were still able to build on that lead and were in control 28-17 at halftime.
“We could have easily been down at halftime, with all that foul trouble, but the bench came in and did a good job,” said Ellis. “A lot of the problem is that we have to play smarter on defense.”
Malachi Barrett netted all 8 of his points in a third quarter splurge – a run that started with an emphatic dunk on a transition effort – as the Knights only stayed in contact by nailing a couple of 3-point baskets, by Frankie Poshnjari and Alex Georgakas, to make it 41-30 after three periods.
Prospect never got closer than nine points in the final period even though ETHS missed six free throws down the stretch, including four misses by point guard Duncan.
Georgakas led Prospect with 13 points, after netting only two in the first quarter.