Back-to-back trips to the Final Four, and 18 straight wins to start this season have apparently made it harder than ever for Evanston’s basketball team to maintain that underdog mentality so prevalent previously in the blue-collar program.
The Wildkits heard that “Overrated! Overrated!” chant from an opposing crowd for the second game in a row Thursday night at Glenbrook South — and they probably won’t hear it again for awhile.
The Kits didn’t put up much of a fight in a battle of Central Suburban League South unbeatens as host GBS chalked up a wire-to-wire 67-53 victory behind Dominic Martinelli’s 36 points.
It marked the first time since February of 2016 that the Wildkits have suffered back-to-back defeats, counting the loss to Loyola Academy on Tuesday, and put the Titans (20-3 overall) ahead of the 5-time defending league champs by one game in the standings.
Evanston, now 20-3 and 6-1 in league play, got 16 points from Blake Peters, 15 from Isaiah Holden and 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists from Jaylin Gibson but didn’t do anything defensively to slow down the left-handed Martinelli. Just like he did in leading the Titans to an upset win over ETHS last year, Martinelli drove to his left 99 percent of the time — only Indy race car drivers make more lefty turns than the GBS senior —and his only field goal outside the paint was a 3-point shot in the second quarter.
He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter for the winners and was backed up by sophomore Cooper Noard’s 15 total points.
“I just got through telling them (ETHS players) left, left, left, left, left,” said Evanston coach Mike Ellis, referring to Martinelli’s basic move. “We’re not playing smart basketball right now. And the problem as I see it is that I think we have an inflated opinion of ourselves. We’re not playing like underdogs, and that’s how we played every game early in the year.
“For some reason, we feel like we can just walk out on the floor and pick up a win. We didn’t attack them united, 5 on 5, and we didn’t defend united or 5 on 5 either. We were out there spectating instead of making plays. We’re not aggressively hunting shots, we’re just waiting to see what happens.
“We need to stop buying a ticket to the movie and BE the movie!”
Evanston trailed just 40-38 entering the fourth quarter, but two missed shots and two turnovers by the visitors enabled the Titans to put together an 8-0 run and stretched the margin to double figures. GBS outscored the Kits 27-15 in the final period.
South outrebounded Evanston by a 28-19 margin and shot 23-of-40 (57 percent) from the field, led by Martinelli’s 12-of-20 effort. The Wildkits continued to struggle from 3-point range, cashing in on just 6-of-23 long-range attempts.
Evanston hosts Oak Park-River Forest on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Tickets are still available online for the February 8th E-Town Showdown set for Northwestern University. The tripleheader matches Stevenson against Loyola Academy, the Evanston boys team against Hamilton of Sussex, Wis., and the top two ranked girls teams in the state of Illinois, Evanston and Benet Academy.
Tickets cost $10 —$12 on the day of the game — and are only available online at www.tinyurl.com/etownshowdown.