Evanston’s basketball team showed just the kind of true grit in the fourth quarter that head coach Mike Ellis was looking for Tuesday night.

The Wildkits recorded 5 straight stops on defense in the final minutes and DePaul Prep’s Raequan Williams missed a short baseline jumper at the buzzer, allowing Evanston to earn a 45-43 victory over the host team in the second round of the “Battle of the Bridge” Thanksgiving tournament.

Evanston only needs a victory over winless Chicago Taft on Wednesday to advance to Friday’s championship game at Lane Tech.

Nojel Eastern paced the Kits, now 2-0, with 24 points, including 10 in the fourth period. His fast-break layup with 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining gave ETHS the lead for good at 42-40 and he added two free throws along with a free throw by Chris Hamil down the stretch.

But the victory wasn’t secured until Evanston junior forward Dylan Mulvihill — despite giving away approximately 100 pounds to the player he was guarding, Williams — challenged the burly center twice on defense.

First, Mulvihill successfully forced a jump ball after the Rams intentionally missed a free throw with 3 seconds remaining. Then he contested the final shot by Williams, which glanced off the front of the rim.

“We have a lot of guys who are skilled on offense, but we won this game with our defense tonight,” said Ellis. “I want them to understand that games are won at the other end of the floor, too, and I was happy to see them put in that effort at the defensive end to close it out.

“It was a good team effort. I’m more pleased that we closed it out with defensive stops than I would have been winning with a shot at the buzzer.”

Eastern’s layup with 73 seconds left was also part of a strong defensive effort that started with the ball in DePaul’s possession and the score tied. The Kits harassed Williams in the lane and he lost the handle, Eastern swatted the ball out near midcourt, and Micquel Roseman tipped it back to him for a 2-on-1 break on a night where field goals were at a premium.

DePaul only mustered 10 field goals on the night, in 34 attempts, but made up for that by sinking 20-of-31 at the free throw stripe. Evanston connected on 14-of-37 field goal attempts and added 15 free throws in a game that featured 44 personal fouls.

A scoring spurt by Eastern in the final minute and a half erased a three-point deficit to restore the visitors to a 23-19 halftime advantage. Eastern knocked in a rebound, added a layup off a turnover, and then tossed in a 30-foot shot following another turnover by the Rams.

Elijah Henry added 8 points and 7 rebounds for the Wildkits before fouling out with 6:01 remaining in regulation. Mulvihill contributed 6 points and 5 boards.

Williams, a Division I football recruit, led DePaul with 13 points.

Source: ETHS Sports Information

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