Sometimes the numbers lie.
For a basketball team that usually has 5 guards on the floor at the same time to shoot 31 percent from 3-point range shouldn’t add up to an unbeaten record. But Evanston fans were happy to see their team regain its 3-point shooting stroke Friday night in Park Ridge.
Led by junior guard Isaiah Holden’s career-high 14 points, the Wildkits converted 10-of-24 shots from long distance and dialed up a 51-37 Central Suburban League South division road win over Maine South.
Jaylin Gibson added 12 points, 7 rebounds and 6 steals and Blake Peters contributed 13 points for the winners, now 9-0 overall and 3-0 in league play. Maine South slipped to 3-4 and 1-2, respectively.
Evanston broke open a defensive duel in the third quarter, when Holden fired in 4 straight 3-point attempts to help the Kits outscore the Hawks 21-8. It was the culmination of a rough week for the junior guard, who lost his grandfather in a battle with cancer and also had to survive semester exams at the school.
He entered the game shooting just 2-of-14 from 3-point distance on the year, but thrived when Evanston’s efficient ball movement produced open looks against Maine South’s matchup zone. It marked just the second time this season the Wildkits have scored 10 or more 3-pointers as a team.
“Maine South always owns the paint, but they’ll give you some looks from 3-point range,” said ETHS head coach Mike Ellis. “I really don’t like it when that 3-point shooting comes and goes — I wish it would stay. But as long as we’re taking good shots, I don’t see our percentage going lower and for the most part this year we’ve had good shot selection in the flow of our offense. We don’t have guys coming down the court looking to put them up right away.
“We found the hot hand (from 3-point range) tonight and they know that if a guy makes a 3, you need to make sure it goes through his hands at least once the next time. I think our decision making has been really solid for the most part.
“Itchy (Holden) lost his grandfather this past week and I’m so happy for him to be able to have a game like this. Early on in the season I think he’s been trying to establish himself (as a starter), and tonight he came in focused and really dialed in.”
“My teammates move the ball so well that I know we’ll get wide open looks after a couple of passes,” said Holden. “I know my grandfather is always with me and that motivated me to go harder in practice this week. They left me open tonight and I felt like I just caught fire.
“The coaches have told us about our (low) shooting percentage and that forces us to work harder and lock in, even in practice. We were locked in during the week and that translated into the game tonight. Now, we look like a more solid team.”
The Kits and Hawks combined for just 10 total points in a lackluster second quarter, as Gibson’s favorite inbound trick — a pass off some opponent’s anatomy — produced a layup for the junior standout with two ticks left on the clock.
The visitors built a 41-21 advantage after 3 quarters and finished off the conference win by sinking 7-of-9 free throws in the final quarter.
Evanston will open play at the Centralia Holiday Tournament with a 3 p.m. game on December 26th against Cahokia. The tourney concludes on Dec. 28.