The recent decision by Evanston’s basketball coaching staff to put the ball in Ryan Bost’s hands more — and in a different position on the floor — continued to play dividends Saturday night at Beardsley Gym.
The Wildkits unleashed a 16-0 scoring punch to start the game and knocked out Oak Park-River Forest by an 81-66 margin as Bost led four scorers in double figures for the winners. The junior guard turned in the finest back-to-back performances of his career in the midst of a tough 3-game stretch for ETHS.
After registering 19 points in an overtime win over Niles North on Friday, Bost thrived in another up-tempo game on Saturday and poured in a game-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals.
Evanston moved to 18-4 on the season while the Huskies fell to 17-5. Jaheim Holden (18 points, 3 assists, 2 steals), Blake Peters (17 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range) and Lance Jones (13 points, 2 steals) joined Bost in double figures in another statement win for the Kits that should boost their resume in the minds of coaches voting to seed the Maine East Sectional tournament complex.
All 5 Evanston starters scored in that opening spurt and the two teams basically traded baskets after that.
“That was our best start of the year when you factor in what we had to do the previous night,” said Evanston head coach Mike Ellis. “We felt it would be a challenge to come out focused and ready to play again tonight, but to see them accept that challenge and really invest in a good start was really something.
“We’ve made a small adjustment to Ryan’s position on the floor, and he’s really taken off for us. We want him involved in the decision-making and we want him to be more of a facilitator. It’s a sign of leadership for those juniors (Bost, Holden, Jones) because of the way they’ve elevated their play at this point of the season.”
Evanston achieved the non-conference win in front of a home crowd that included members of the 1968 state championship team and others that have reached the Elite Eight representing the school. That’s a history lesson that Ellis and his staff continue to teach to their teen-agers.
“We talk about the history of Evanston Township High School basketball all the time, we bring it up on a daily and weekly basis,” Ellis pointed out. “We talk about leaving your mark here and taking advantage of the opportunities you have. We know that we can’t be satisified with what we did yesterday, that we have to come to practice every day and continue to get better.”
Saturday, the Kits finally re-discovered their 3-point shooting stroke after watching the team percentage drop at least 10 points over the past month. They burned Oak Park with 10-of-21 marksmanship from beyond the arc, and also out-rebounded the losers 40-29.
Through the season’s first 21 games the Kits have basically battled opponents to a standoff on the boards, despite starting 4 guards in every game.
“When you’re guarding someone taller and bigger than you are every single game, it becomes a habit to be scrappy and get those loose balls off the rim,” added Ellis. “We’ve got to continue to commit to rebounding well and fundamentally checking out, not leaking out even when we’re scoring a lot in transition like we were tonight.”
Evanston ran to a 40-25 halftime advantage and the Huskies never got closer than 10 points in the final period.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.