Even though his focus at the helm of Evanston’s basketball team is on defense, head coach Mike Ellis knows that his players aren’t working on that part of their game when they’re alone in a gym in the summer with only a basketball for company.
In Elijah Henry’s case, however, an improved offensive game is something the Wildkit senior needed to take the next step in his cage career.
All that practice led to a perfect game for Henry Thursday night at Glenbrook South. The Kit post player sank all 7 field goal attempts as Evanston eased past the Titans for a 75-46 Central Suburban League South division victory.
Henry’s 10-point splurge in the second quarter kept the visitors in the contest and he didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter, finishing with a game-high 17 points and 5 rebounds. Nojel Eastern collected 13 points, Jerome Bynum added 12 and Chris Hamil contributed 9 as Evanston improved to 14-6 overall and 6-1 in league play.
A career 50 percent shooter in his first two seasons as a starter at ETHS, the 6-foot-5 Henry has added a perimeter game while also improving his overall offensive efficiency. On the year he’s shooting 65 percent from the floor, and they’re not all layups.
With Evanston trailing GBS (8-11, 2-5) 20-16 after the first period Thursday, Henry started his scoring binge with a pair of free throws. He added a 10-foot jumper from the wing — a jump shot from the free throw line — a fast break layup — and another 15-footer to boost Evanston’s lead to 34-29 by halftime.
Henry added 5 more points in the third stanza, which ended with the visitors on top 52-38.
“Elijah really was the difference for us tonight. He kept us in the game with his ability to hit that 15-foot jump shot, or we could have been looking at a 10-point deficit,” Ellis said. “He likes being in the gym and working on his game, and it’s great to see that hard work paying off for him. He’s really always had the ability to face up and make shots, and now that Dylan Mulvihill has emerged (both players started against the Titans) for us, it’s a new experience for him to play out on the perimeter as a wing.
“He doesn’t always get a lot of touches, and a lot of that depends on the matchups. Plus Dylan’s playing so well that he has lost some minutes (of playing time). Our guys did a great job tonight of understanding where he can score from best. He takes good shots and always is solid rebounding and on defense. The way Elijah has expanded his game this year, he’s given us a lot more flexibility on offense.”
Following a pattern they’ve established in other games, the Wildkits didn’t put up much of a fight on defense in the first quarter and surrendered 20 points in the period before clamping down on the Titans.
Glenbrook South connected on just 38 percent (17-of-45) of their field goal attempts, as George Mavrakis totaled 13 as the only player to reach double figures for the hosts.
“GBS was more aggressive at the start than we were,” Ellis said. “They came out and made some shots, and they were really efficient in the first quarter. We challenged our guys to turn it up on the defensive end in the second half, and they did.”
Evanston will host defending conference champion Maine South next Thursday in a showdown that will likely decide the CSL South race.
“There should be a great atmosphere around that game,” said the Evanston coach. “Last time we played solid against them for three quarters, but to Maine South’s credit, they made the plays when they needed them most down the stretch. We know they’re not gonna beat themselves. It’s up to our guys to play together, to play smart and to execute because Maine South is a well-oiled machine.”
Source: ETHS Sports Information