No one has to tell Mike Ellis that sometimes the best defense is a patient offense.
The Evanston basketball coach couldn’t find an individual defender to contain New Trier guard Jordan Thomas Friday night in Winnetka, so the Wildkits spread the floor and chewed up the clock for much of the second half in a 63-55 trimming of the Trevians in a Central Suburban League South division basketball game.
It marked the second win for the Wildkits this season against their long-time rivals. But even as Evanston improved to 15-5 overall and 5-1 at the start of the second round of league play, the celebration was short-lived.
Why? Because a more important matchup between the two teams might take place in March.
“We’re not looking that far ahead,” Ellis pointed out, “but since we could see them again in their (Class 4A) regional tournament, we’re not celebrating yet. If you can beat them three times in one season, if you can accomplish that feat, that’s when you celebrate. That would be an accomplishment.”
Evanston converted 20-of-28 free throws on the night, most of them coming in the second half as the visitors tried to maintain their 29-23 halftime advantage.
“By the end of the third quarter, we wanted our offense to turn into free throws,” Ellis pointed out. “We wanted to take our time so we wouldn’t have to guard Thomas (team-high 21 points) so long. It worked out pretty well, I thought. Against a good defensive team like New Trier, which is well-coached, if you don’t play smart basketball you end up shooting yourself in the foot.
“I thought the improvement I saw tonight was in our resiliency. When we made mistakes, we came right back and made plays to make up for it. We had each other’s backs.”
Will Jones paced the winners with 22 points, including a 12-of-15 performance at the free throw line. Junior center Elijah Henry added 14 points and 15 rebounds, including six key points in the final period to foil New Trier’s comeback attempt.
A back-door layup by ETHS reserve Tommy Haughey, off a lob pass from Jones, staked the Kits to a 49-40 lead with 3 minutes, 45 seconds remaining. Evanston sank 10-of-12 at the charity stripe after that and the Trevians (12-8 overall, 2-4 CSL South) never got closer than four points down the stretch.
Thomas, who didn’t play the first time the two teams met, finished with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. He was the only New Trier player to reach double figures.
Source: ETHS Sports Information