There will definitely be a race in the Central Suburban League South division now.

Evanston’s basketball team made sure of that Friday night by trimming league leader New Trier 54-46 in front of a sold-out crowd at Beardsley Gymnasium.

Evanston’s defense denied the visiting Trevians the chance to open up an almost insurmountable two-game lead and instead it was the Wildkits who pulled into a tie for the top spot after limiting New Trier’s “big three” — 6-foot-9 Ciaran Brayboy, 6-8 Spencer Boehm and 6-5 Sam Silverstein — to a combined 29 points.

Senior Jaheim Holden’s 22 points and a team effort that produced 19 steals for the smaller hosts helped Evanston, ranked 9th in the state of Illinois in the latest Associated Press Class 4A poll, improve to 17-3 on the season and 4-1 in league play. New Trier slipped to 15-3 and 5-1, respectively.

Evanston’s Lance Jones pulls up for a jumper against the New Trier defense.

Evanston now leads the all-time series between the two rivals with 116 wins to 95 for New Trier.

The first game of the Bob Bost Classic, a boys-girls doubleheader that honored the late ETHS assistant coach for the 7th straight year, was decided at the defensive end by the winners. They swarmed the 6-9 Brayboy and Boehm with double-team tactics whenever the pair had possession, and those 19 team steals included 5 by Ryan Bost, 4 by Holden, and 3 apiece by Blake Peters, Lance Jones and Jaylin Gibson.

“Overall, I thought our guys gave a great effort to earn this victory,” said Evanston head coach Mike Ellis. “It was a great team defensive effort. We couldn’t afford to fall 2 games behind them (in the standings) and we had to make sure that we took care of business tonight on our home court.

“You can’t stop all 3 of their top guys, but our goal was to let all 3 of them together score no more than 30 points. What did they get, 29? We did a solid job on Cieran, a solid job on Boehm and we took care of Silverstein, too. It takes all 5 guys to defend the low post like we did tonight and you need a lot of backside help. We played good team defense and made plays to help one another tonight.

“We can win with tempo, and we can win when we have to grind it out like tonight. But tonight it was all about our effort, not about going fast or slow.”

The Wildkits pulled away in the second half after leading just 24-23 at the intermission. Holden, who scored just 4 points in the most recent win over Niles West, scored 17 points in the second half, including 6 straight free throws in the fourth quarter to clinch the win.

“Jaheim helped us on the offensive end, and he helped us on the defensive end tonight,” praised Ellis. “We took good care of the basketball and capitalized on the stops that we got. You have to limit the other team’s better players whenever you can.”

Evanston head coach Mike Ellis discusses strategy with senior guard Jaheim Holden, who notched 22 points in Friday’s win over New Trier.

Holden’s 3-point shot in transition helped the hosts build a 48-35 lead midway through the final period, but the Trevians chipped away with a 9-0 run of their own. Back-to-back steals by Silverstein cut the deficit to 48-44 with 2:38 remaining.

But Boehm missed a 3-point attempt, the Trevs turned the ball over again, and Holden converted 6 free throws in the last 52 seconds for the winners.

Bost (11 points) and Jones (10) also scored in double figures for an ETHS squad that came into the game averaging 71 points. Peters contributed 7 points and 7 rebounds.

New Trier’s Noah Osher racked up a team-best 12 points, ahead of Silverstein (11), Brayboy (10) and Boehm (8).

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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