Voters in the first Associated Press poll of the high school basketball season tabbed Evanston as the No. 9 ranked team in Class 4A this week.

Evanston’s Prince Adams finishes a layup. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

If any of those voters watched the last six minutes of Friday’s Central Suburban League South division opener against Glenbrook South High School, they might have demanded a recount.

Leading by 16 points late in the third quarter, the Wildkits held on for a 61-59 victory in front of a nervous Beardsley Gymnasium crowd when the Glenbrook South Titans’ Nick Taylor shot an air ball from 3-point range at the final buzzer.

Another career night for Evanston senior Prince Adams (25 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocked shots) included three critical free throws down the stretch for the unbeaten Wildkits, who improved to 5-0 on the season.

Lessons (hopefully) learned

It was hardly the kind of “payback” ETHS head coach Mike Ellis was seeking after losing to the Titans three times last season, including a season-ending defeat in the sectional tournament.

All Ellis could hope was that the Kits learned a valuable lesson.

Evanston’s Brandon Watson somehow manages to get a shot past Glenbrook South’s Nate Kasher (2). Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

“Our discipline just eroded in the closing stages of the game tonight,” said Ellis. “We played solid team basketball for the first 25 or 26 minutes, but in the last six, GBS owned us. Really good teams aren’t going to quit, and I think our guys underestimated GBS tonight.

“Everyone took turns trying to be a hero [in the fourth quarter], trying to gamble and make great plays, instead of playing as a collective five like we did in the first three quarters. Our execution was poor at both ends of the court at the end – and that’s when you have to be at your best.”

South (4-2) outscored the hosts 24-14 in the final period after struggling to score in the early portions of the contest. Rodell Davis netted 18 points, including an 11-of-12 effort at the free throw line, and Gavin Marr added 15 for the losers.

Adams swished three free throws in the final 48 seconds, but his one miss at the charity stripe gave South a chance to play some “hero ball” of its own. The 6-foot-7 Johnson, however, didn’t even draw iron to foil the comeback try.

Evanston’s Josh Thomas (15) and Ephraim Chase (5) block Glenbrook South’s Gaven Marr. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

“I have a lot of confidence in Prince at the foul line,” Ellis explained. “I even drew up a play for him to get the ball there at the end because he’s a 75-76% shooter. If we have Prince at the foul line, we feel really good about our chances.

He continued: “Prince and Josh Thomas [8 points] were fortunate enough to take advantage of their size inside tonight. We were more aware, more focused and played smart while finding the holes in their [man-to-man] defense and Prince and Josh were the beneficiaries.

“We played as a unit the first three quarters. We shared the basketball, but then we got in trouble when we had too many heroes. All of a sudden we got to the point where it looked like we were trying to make more [highlight] videos.”

Tourney play a good team warm-up

Evanston broke out to a 33-23 advantage behind Adams’ 11 points and 9 from junior guard Brandon Watson. One of the takeaways from the Saint Viator Thanksgiving Tournament was that the Wildkits play some of their best team basketball when Watson is on the floor, and the 5-foot-9 junior supplied energy and a couple of steals to go with those 9 points.

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“Brandon’s effort was great tonight,” praised Ellis, although the junior didn’t play in the fourth quarter. “He made some big shots and played downhill, and put pressure on GBS. He got his chance to start for the first time and he took advantage of it.

“Brandon gives us six ‘starters” and we’ve got to get to the point where we have a starting eight. We need a couple more guys to come along like that.”

Evanston led 47-35 entering the fourth quarter when the wheels started to come off. It was still 58-47 with three minutes to play, but the Titans reeled off 6 unanswered points and crept closer.

Adams restored order briefly for the home team with a pair of free throws to make it 60-53 with 48 seconds on the clock. South, however, responded with 3-point buckets by Anestis Hadjistamoulou and Josh Wolf on back-to-back possessions and there wasn’t a fingernail left in Beardsley Gym.

Adams missed the front end of a super bonus situation at the free throw line, then sank the second for his career high 25th point. He converted 9-of-14 field goal attempts, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Evanston will host Mundelein at 4 p.m. Saturday in a non-conference game and is also home next Tuesday versus La Lumiere Prep from LaPorte, Indiana.  

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