Evanston’s basketball team probably won’t beat many foes from the 3-point line this season.
But that’s what the Wildkits did Friday night in Wilmette, behind a guy who most opponents still don’t believe can beat them from beyond the arc.
Post player Prince Adams swished a 3-point try with 1 minute, 52 seconds remaining and Evanston held on for a 54-52 overtime victory at Loyola Academy to end a two-game losing skid.
Adams connected on a wide-open shot from beyond the top of the key and Loyola’s Miles Boland missed a 10-foot baseline jumper as time ran out in the extra period. Evanston improved to 8-2 on the season and bounced back from consecutive losses to Glenbrook North and Marian Catholic by converting 9 of 21 3-point attempts in the game.
Adams contributed a game-winning shot, plus four rebounds and a blocked shot in the overtime session after being contained by the Ramblers’ double-team tactics for most of the game. He still finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for the winners, who also got a season-high 11 points from Ephraim Chase off the bench and 9 points from Josh Thomas.
Loyola was led by Boland with 16 points, although he missed 14 of the 19 shots he tried. The hosts shot just 36% from the field (16 of 42).
The fact that all of Evanston’s 3-point attempts came in the flow of the offense, against a clinging man-to-man Loyola defense, probably sparked some fond memories for Evanston head coach Mike Ellis. That is, memories about the kind of attack that former ETHS stars like Blake Peters, Jaheim Holden and Lance Jones were so successful at during back-to-back Final Four runs.
And Ellis didn’t flinch when he saw the 6-foot-5 Adams loading up for a long shot after the Kits fell behind 52-50 on a pair of free throws by Loyola’s Andrew Hollerich with 2:20 left in OT.
“Prince hit a huge 3 right there,” said Ellis. “Their guy was playing 6 feet off of him and he was wide open. Maybe they felt he couldn’t make it, but he has a coach and 19 teammates who thought he would.
“We played a lot of good basketball within those 36 minutes tonight. The great part about it is that they all took turns making game-winning plays all through the game, not just Prince’s 3. We gave Loyola some extra chances, but I was proud to see our guys roll their sleeves up and try to get the ball back again. We’ve gotten away from [playing like] that the last 12 days or so.
“For the better part of the game, we tried to find OUR best shot, not MY best shot. And our defense was a key factor in the game too. We held them to 36% shooting. Loyola is a team that people always talk about as playing great defense – and justifiably so, they’re one of the best defensive teams in the state every year – and I want our guys to be at that stage too.”
Adams’ success outside the paint shouldn’t be a surprise to any foe who’s paying attention to a scouting report. The senior standout has converted seven of 24 attempts so far this year in 10 games after only knocking down three treys in 30 games as a junior.
“Over the summer I really worked on bringing more levels to my scoring,” Adams said. “If teams have to guard me from 3-point, that really opens up a lot of other things. It’s really a skill you have to have now.
Adams said the Rambler guarding him, 6-foot-7 junior Brendan Loftus, “wasn’t really trying to contest my shots all night. He didn’t have his hand up, so I shot it – I shot it with confidence – and it dropped in. Coach is always emphasizing that when you give the ball up so many times, it will come back to you and you should feel like you deserve to score.”
Adams attempted just six shots from the field in four-plus quarters, but the visitors were able to find some balance in their attack after struggling in that area in the recent losses. Chase sank four of seven of his field goal attempts and three came from three-point range, helping the Wildkits shoot 41% overall as a team (18 of 44).
The Wildkits held the hosts scoreless in the final 2:20 as Adams rose to the occasion and owned the paint. A free throw by Malachi Barrett with 13 seconds left on the clock provided some insurance.
“Loyola tried to pound us inside tonight,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in my defense in the paint and I knew I had to turn it up [in the OT]. I think we played well defensively. I would’ve liked to limit some of the fouls and the free throws, but overall we executed our defensive game plan pretty well.”
A pair of three-point buckets by junior Brandon Watson (season-high 8 points) gave the visitors a 29-22 cushion at halftime. But the Ramblers regained the momentum with an 11-0 surge in the third period and pulled out to a 43-40 advantage by the end of the quarter.
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Neither team led by more than three points in the fourth quarter, which ended in a 50-50 tie after Alex Engro split a pair of free throws for the Ramblers with 45 seconds left in regulation. Evanston held the ball until the 10-second mark, then called a time out.
But when the Ramblers countered with a zone defense as play resumed, the Kits didn’t react except for a long three-pointer by Hunter Duncan that didn’t come close.
Evanston’s next contest is next Thursday at Northwestern University, when the Kits challenge rival New Trier in a Central Suburban League South division matchup.