Adding perennial basketball power St. Joseph back to Evanston’s schedule for the 2017-18 season set up a classic “men versus boys” scenario considering that the Chargers returned 5 senior starters to zero for the Wildkits.
But in the end it was the veteran Chargers who couldn’t keep up with Evanston’s young guns Saturday night in Westchester.
Trailing 37-32 at halftime, the Wildkits ran away from St. Joe for an impressive 73-60 non-conference victory behind double figure performances from four underclassmen. Evanston bounced back from a sub-par performance the previous night against Niles North and improved to 7-2 on the season.
Evanston owned the second half in a reversal of form from the loss to North. Freshman Blake Peters scored a game-high 19 points, including 5-of-6 marksmanship from 3-point range, backed up by Lance Jones (16 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists), Jaheim Holden (12 points) and Ryan Bost (12 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists).
The winners shot 56 percent from the floor, including an 11-of-20 effort from beyond the 3-point arc. Equally impressive, however, was the defensive effort in the second half that limited the hosts (7-2 overall) to just 23 points.
The Chargers owned the paint in the first half, but ran out of gas trying to keep up with the visitors in an up-tempo contest that ETHS prefers to play.
“It was definitely a tale of two halves,” said Evanston head coach Mike Ellis. “They really pounded us in the paint with their size in the first half. We just found a way in the second half to pick up the pace and make it more of a guard’s game. To flip things like that was definitely an advantage for us.
“We came out in the second half with a focus to win the game on the defensive end. After last night, we could have come in and sulked about the fact that we let that Niles North game get away from us. We wanted to show up tonight with an agenda, like we do for every game, and our guys were focused and really put in the work tonight.”
Jones, who was quiet in the first half Saturday, erupted for 10 points in the third quarter and fueled an 11-0 ETHS run that grabbed a 50-46 lead late in the period. Peters drilled in a 25-footer in the midst of that surge and the Wildkits led 56-52 by the time the period ended and the Chargers couldn’t figure out just what had hit them.
A key 3-point basket by senior Harry Porter — who didn’t play at all in the first three quarters but started in Peters’ place in the final period — stretched the lead to 63-54 and the Kits never looked back.
“Harry Porter may be the closest thing to a leader we have in the lockerroom,” Ellis praised. “That’s just the person that he is. He’s always in the right place at the right time, whether it’s in the lockerroom or in the hallways at school. We wanted to give Blake a break, but mostly I wanted to reward Harry for the leadership he’s shown us. The guys found him and he made the right play. He deserved to make that shot.”
St. Joseph was paced by Jaylen Boyd with 19 points, Joffari Brown with 16, and Jordan Boyd with 14.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.