Glenbrook South High School converted five free throws in the final 34 seconds Friday night and sent Evanston Township High School’s basketball team to the sidelines for good with a 47-43 triumph in the Class 4A Conant Regional tournament championship game.

Coach Mike Ellis points Ephraim Chase (5) in the right direction during a recent practice. Credit: Michael Kellams/

The season-ending loss marked the earliest exit for the Wildkits from the Illinois High School Association state tournament series since the 2012-13 season, when they lost in the regional semifinals.

Friday’s setback snapped a string of eight straight regional crowns for the program under head coach Mike Ellis.

The sluggish defensive duel was decided at the free throw line, as the Titans cashed in on 11-of-16 charity tosses in the fourth quarter and defeated the Kits for the second time in three meetings this season. No. 4 seed Glenbrook South will take a 25-8 record into the New Trier Sectional semifinals next week.

Evanston finished with a 24-9 record and the last thing the Wildkits wanted to do with their season on the line was to get involved in a free throw contest with almost any opponent. That’s not playing to their strength as a team.

Leading scorer Prince Adams had a 4-of-14 shooting night – with almost all of his chances coming at point-blank range – before fouling out with 34 seconds remaining and ETHS nursing a 1-point lead.

Adams charged into Glenbrook South defender Gavin Marr and that turnover led to a pair of free throws for Nick Taylor (game-high 20 points) and three more free throws sunk by Anestis Hadjistamoulou to finish off Evanston’s season.

Adams finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds and junior guard Brandon Watson added 10 points and a couple of steals for the Kits.

The fact that the ETHS coaching staff was able to squeeze 24 victories out of a roster that featured only one returning starter (Adams) and five transfers into the program as seniors offered little consolation for Ellis.

“I thought we had a good chance of winning tonight if we kept them under 50 points,” said Ellis, “but we had too many empty possessions and that allowed them to breathe easier. The difference was right around the basket, with the looks we were getting. We had point blank shots and we couldn’t finish. We didn’t get it done.

“You wouldn’t take any of those looks we had back. They just did a better job of taking advantage of their opportunities tonight than we did.”

Evanston’s Ephraim Chase (5) during the team’s December win over Glenbrook South at Beardsley Gym. Credit: Michael Kellams/

Glenbrook South lost its best player, forward Rodell Davis, to an injury with 6 minutes left in the first half and he never returned to the game. In his absence, the 6-foot-7 junior Taylor rose to the occasion for the Titans, netting 17 points in the second half and dominating the paint against the veteran Adams.

Taylor’s 3-point basket with just under two minutes left in the third quarter helped the Titans regain the momentum on their way to a 34-31 lead, following a surge earlier from Adams that lifted ETHS on top by a 27-22 margin.

Taylor added a 3-point play with 6:18 left in the game – the only basket South scored in the entire fourth quarter – and sank 7-of-13 field goal attempts.

“Nick Taylor was the difference in the game,” Ellis said. “He was the star among stars. Whenever they needed a basket, he got it.”

A steal and a lay-in by Watson climaxed a 7-0 run by Evanston in the first minute of the final period, enough for a 38-34 advantage. But the resilient Titans kept chipping away at the free throw line.

Two free throws by Marr finally pulled Glenbrook South even at 41-41 with 3:12 remaining. Then the usually reliable Adams missed a pair of free throws and Hunter Duncan also misfired on a bonus attempt.

After Taylor split a pair of free throws at the 1:37 mark, Ephraim Chase came off the bench to deliver a pair of bonus free throws for what turned out to be Evanston’s last lead of the season with 1:23 to play.

“Ephraim made two big free throws for us there and I thought it would get us over the hump. But it didn’t,” Ellis sighed. “He did a great job in a clutch situation. He gave us a chance to win.

“We just weren’t disciplined enough defensively tonight, either. Our pressure hurt them early on and we believe in playing defense without fouling. But whenever they got the ball inside they either converted layups or made free throws. And we didn’t do either one. We didn’t do a good job of playing through contact.

“It was an up and down season for us. There were many highs – and some lows. We won the Thanksgiving tournament [at Saint Viator High School] against some pretty formidable teams and we played well at Centralia [High School at Christmas], too. We’d play consistent for a couple of weeks, but then we’d take a step back for a week or so, too. We had a lot of trouble being consistent.

“These guys competed hard every day in practice. They were committed to trying to get better. When we played together [for the first time] in the summer we looked like a state contending team. But in the summer, all you have to do is wake up and play basketball. We told the seniors that from now on their life is about structure, and I hope they can take the lessons they learned this year through their next steps in life.” 

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  1. Coach Ellis has created one of the finest high school basketball programs you’ll find anywhere—-for many years his team’s consistently achieve great success on and off the court—-congratulations to Coach Ellis and all the Kits on another fine season…and to Dennis Mahoney for the finest sports journalism on the north shore