Evanston’s boys basketball team managed to string together seven straight wins to start the season despite averaging 18 turnovers per game.
The Wildkits got away with some uneven play against some average teams. But they found out Thursday night, Dec. 8, that you can’t give the ball away that many times against good competition – and survive.
Glenbrook North High School capitalized on 22 turnovers and scored a 71-59 victory in a battle of unbeatens. The state-ranked Glenbrook North Spartans sank 15-of-22 free throws in the fourth quarter to thwart any comeback attempt in the Central Suburban League South division showdown and improved to 7-0 overall, 2-0 in league play.
Evanston slipped to 7-1 overall and 1-1 in the CSL South despite Hunter Duncan’s season-high 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. But the Evanston point guard also turned the ball over nine times, and ETHS only led for the first four minutes of the game because of all those mistakes.
Coach Ellis: KISS
Wildkit head coach Mike Ellis has continued to preach the mantra of KISS – Keep It Simple – on offense, especially for the newcomers to the program, but the turnovers kept piling up anyway.
“GBN defended way better than us tonight, and their guards didn’t turn the ball over,” Ellis said. “It puts a lot of pressure on your shot-making when you give up that many possessions. Those turnovers cost us 10 to 12 points tonight, and that was the difference in the ballgame.
“We’re trying to do too much, trying to play too fast, and our decision-making with the ball isn’t good. We’re electing to forgo the easy play to trying to make plays with more of a degree of difficulty.
“They have to understand that good baskeball . . . is simple basketball. We have too many guys trying to get too creative with their play.
“GBN competed better than us tonight. There are four good teams in the conference and they’re the best right now. They showed it tonight.”
Duncan scored all of his points in the final three quarters when the visitors were forced to play catch-up basketball. He sank 9-of-15 field goal attempts but only got support from Prince Adams with 10 points. Adams was plagued by early foul trouble and only played 21 minutes.
Two other ETHS starters, Josh Thomas and Malachi Barrett, fouled out and only scored a combined 8 points. North converted 21-of-33 at the free throw line, including a 12-of-14 performance by Ryan Cohen on his way to a 15-point night. Josh Fridman paced GBN with 21 points and 6-foot-7 Pat Schaller contributed 16 points and six rebounds.
Evanston fell behind 18-10 at the first quarter stop and trailed 33-23 at halftime and 48-37 after three periods. The Kits didn’t quit, closing to within 60-54 with 2 minutes, 2 seconds remaining on a pair of free throws by Duncan.
Junior Morgan Brown stole the inbound pass for ETHS, but Duncan misfired on his 3-point attempt and GBN’s Cohen converted a pair of free throws at the other end. The visitors scored only five points the rest of the contest.
“I thought if we got it to a one-possession game [in the fourth quarter], we had a chance. But it still was a high mountain to climb because their guards don’t turn the ball over,” Ellis pointed out.
The Wildkits did get a boost this week when 6-foot-8 Nik Raic was given the doctor’s OK to play after being sidelined with a knee injury. Raic returned to practice Wednesday and was able to play a surprising 21 minutes on Thursday while contributing four points and five rebounds.
Raic, a transfer from Libertyville, will help solidify Evanston’s bench now that there’s more (and taller) depth on the front line.
“I thought Nik looked good out there tonight,” said Ellis. “He’ll help us balance out the other spots on the floor. Now we won’t have to scramble as much when we need a backup for Prince or Josh.”
Evanston will compete Sunday at the Team Rose Shootout at 2 p.m. versus Marian Catholic. That game will take place at Mount Carmel High School.