Lance Jones scored a career-high 28 points and Evanston’s basketball team focused on defense in the fourth quarter, rallying from a 10-point deficit for a 68-61 victory against Geneva at the 8th annual War on the Shore shootout event hosted by Loyola Academy Saturday.
Evanston, now 16-4 overall, outscored the losers 26-11 in the final period as Jones and Jaheim Holden (21 points) combined for 19 of those points.
Most high school basketball teams are fortunate to have one so-called “closer” in tight games. But the two ETHS junior guards have both shown a knack for making plays with the game on the line, and it happened again Saturday.
Jones sizzled from the floor by connecting on 12-of-18 field goal attempts, most of them mid-range jumpers. Holden’s fourth quarter performance included a 5-for-5 showing at the free throw line, plus three steals.
“That third quarter (2-of-14 shooting from the floor) almost killed us again. Thank goodness this isn’t hockey and we have 4 periods to work with, not 3,” said Evanston head coach Mike Ellis.
“We finally started playing with desperation (on defense) in the fourth quarter, and we still have to learn to do that for 32 minutes. We can’t keep allowing teams life, or they’re going to take these games away from us. We can’t keep giving up big runs and coming out soft like we did in that third quarter.
“I think the shot selection for both of them is what made the difference for Lance and Jaheim. When they settle for deep shots (3-pointers) they’re going to shoot a low percentage. But when you make the extra pass, you’re going to be so much more wide open when you get the ball back. There’s more of a chance for the defense to lose you, and both of those guys are so hard to guard.”
Surprisingly, Evanston won for the first time this season without sinking a single 3-point basket. But the Kits had to come back after trailing the Vikings (15-8) 52-42 with 7 minutes left in regulation.
The Wildkits responded with an 11-0 run and regained the lead at 53-52 on Jones’ 10-foot jumper in the lane with 4 minutes, 9 seconds to play. And they didn’t stop there, as Jones scored three more buckets down the stretch and Holden finished off the comeback with a 3-point play and a fast-break layup that put the game out of reach at 64-56 in the final 30 seconds.
Geneva was led by forward Kross Garth with 18 points and guard Mitch Mascari with 14.
“We didn’t make a 3-pointer and we still shot 50 percent today,” Ellis pointed out. “That means you’re taking good shots when you do that.
“Geneva averages about 60 points a game and that’s a very good and well-balanced team. We did a good job of playing defense when it mattered most, and that’s because we were more accountable (on defense) on and off the ball in the fourth quarter. It was really just about the accountability to our defensive principles, and I wish we could have done that sooner.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.