If any of Evanston’s basketball players should be in a comfort zone when it comes to making the starting lineup and playing major minutes, Elijah Henry should be that guy.
He’s in his third year as a varsity starter; is the squad’s tallest player at 6 feet, 5 inches; and is really the only inside scoring threat on the Wildkit roster.
But Henry, a senior, hustles like a raw rookie in practice every day and doesn’t take his minutes for granted.
And Saturday night in Evanston’s home opener he made it a point to show that the Wildkits are a better team with him on the floor instead of on the bench.
After picking up two personal fouls in the first 1 minute, 45 seconds and sitting out the rest of the half, Henry returned to give the Kits a boost in the second half and netted a team-high 12 points in a 59-43 Central Suburban League South division victory over Glenbrook South.
The Wildkits cooled off the Titans and snapped their six-game winning string despite the absences of Henry and sophomore Nojel Eastern, who didn’t start after missing practice due to illness earlier in the week. Evanston improved to 6-2 overall and 2-0 in league play while GBS fell to 6-3 overall.
Even with Henry languishing on the bench, South couldn’t match Evanston’s overall firepower. The Wildkits pulled away to a 29-21 halftime lead, and then it was Henry’s turn.
“Whenever I get in foul trouble, it’s very frustrating because I usually have to sit for the rest of the half so I don’t get a third foul,” Henry said. “That means that the younger people have to step up, and that’s what they did tonight.
“Even when I wasn’t in the game I tried to take the responsibility for what was going on in the game. I yelled at them a lot when I was on the bench to make sure they were executing and rebounding, just trying to make sure my teammates were all on the same page. I got down because of the foul trouble, but I knew I had to pick myself up in the second half. Coach (Mike) Ellis is always telling me that I have to be aggressive and play hard.”
Henry came back to register all 12 of his points, 3 rebounds and a steal in the second half. Backing him up were Eastern with 11 points and Chris Hamil with 10, as 11 different players scored for the winners in another display of team depth that few teams in the state of Illinois can match even at this early stage of the season.
“Elijah is such a warrior for us and he’s always battling,” said ETHS Coach Mike Ellis. “He gives 100 percent, but it’s for his teammates, not for his own stats. He understands how valuable he is to this team. He does a great job of us and I was happy to see him get involved like that in the second half. He scored 12 points in 13 minutes, and that’s pretty solid production. He didn’t get discouraged because of the fouls, he just came in and made plays in the second half.
“We were a little sloppy tonight, at both ends of the floor. We know we have to be more solid as a team. But they’re giving us great effort and they understand that if they play hard, good things will happen. They played with intensity tonight.”
Henry’s fast-break dunk at the 3:39 mark of the third period gave the hosts their first double digit lead at 35-25, and a 3-point basket by Hamil and a layup by Dylan Mulvihill off Micquel Roseman’s penetration kept the margin at 10 entering the final period.
Glenbrook South never got closer than 11 points in the last 8 minutes despite 15 points from Daniel Jenkins. He was the only Titan in double figures.
Source: ETHS Sports Information