A high school basketball team can never have too many weapons, and Evanston added another weapon to its arsenal Saturday afternoon at the Team Rose Shootout held at Mount Carmel High School.
Six-foot-four junior Jalen Christian — who hadn’t scored a single point in the first 6 games of the season — broke through with a double-double in his first extended playing time and was one of five Wildkits to reach double figures in a 90-68 romp over Chicago Uplift.
The Kits shot 57 percent from the field as Lance Jones (20 points, 5 assists), Ryan Bost (16 points), Jaheim Holden (15 points), Christian (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Matt Hall (10 points, 3 blocks) all reached double figures. Evanston put up its highest point total since head coach Mike Ellis took over the program and that’s the most points any ETHS team has scored since a 92-59 win over Mundelein Carmel in 2009 at the Mundelein Thanksgiving Tournament.
Evanston had no problems adjusting from the deliberate style of play by Maine South the previous night to the up-tempo preference for an Uplift squad led by University of Kansas recruit Markese Jacobs. Jacobs, who didn’t start for disciplinary reasons, paced all scorers with 25 points but most of them came in “garbage time” in the fourth quarter, when Evanston already led 64-42.
“We played hard, we played together and we made a lot of good decisions today,” Ellis said after his team improved to 6-1 on the year. “I think they’re starting to figure out that the game is easier when they look for one another and play through each other. You have to move the basketball or you don’t give the defense a chance to break down. We made a lot of shots, and those were open shots because of our ball movement.
“I’m so happy for Jalen with the way he played today. He came in and played with no fear and had to go up against one of the top 2 or 3 players on the floor at the time. He got on a run and we really need guys to step up off the bench like that to get where we want to go as a team. Everyone contributed in a positive manner off the bench today.”
Christian, who has only seen backup duty behind Hall to date, entered the game late in the first quarter after Hall picked up a couple of personal fouls. He immediately contributed a 3-point hustle play, when he rebounded a missed free throw and then added a charity toss of his own, and helped the Kits to a 21-13 advantage after the first quarter.
For the game, Christian converted 5-of-6 field goal attempts and earned 5 offensive rebounds. He was also credited with 2 assists among the 22 team assists the Wildkits registered on 35 field goals.
Uplift (3-4) couldn’t contain the winners with either a man-to-man or 2-3 zone defense. “We’ve faced zone defenses in 26 of 28 quarters so far, and with the shooters we have we can really spread the defenses out,” Ellis noted. “We never seem to have to ride the hot hand of just one guy.”
Evanston shot 9-of-22 from 3-point range, including a 3-of-5 performance by the suddenly hot Bost. The junior guard had connected on 2-of-4 treys in Friday’s win at Maine South and appears to have overcome his slow offensive start to the season.
“Ryan was in every morning this week at 6 a.m. working on his shooting,” said Ellis, “and it’s good to see his hard work carry over from one game to the next. Hard work like that should be rewarded.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.