Tre Marshall spent most of the fourth quarter Saturday night in chase mode, trying to cool off Fremd’s hot-shooting guard, Kyle Silwa.
Marshall never really succeeded much on the defensive end — Silwa finished with a game-high 19 points, including five 3-point baskets — but the Evanston senior made enough plays on both ends of the court to help ETHS finally get the Fremd monkey off its collective back.
Evanston’s 50-43 triumph came after the Vikings relied on buzzer beating shots to snatch victories from the Wildkits in each of the past two seasons. The Wildkits, ranked 5th in the state of Illinois in Class 4A, pushed their season record to 14-2 behind Dylan Mulvihill’s double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds) and some clutch fourth quarter plays by Marshall.
Fremd dropped to 14-5 on the season and never led after falling behind 7-0 in the opening minutes of the non-conference contest.
But the visitors, hampered by Nojel Eastern’s foul trouble — he only played a total of 16 minutes — couldn’t pull away and found themselves locked in a 39-39 tie with 3 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Silwa.
After a clutch jumper in the lane by Chris Hamil restored the lead for ETHS, Silwa missed a trey attempt and Marshall drove the lane for a 3-point play of his own that gave Evanston some breathing room.
And when the Vikings got within 3 points again, this time it was Marshall who beat their trapping tactics with a feed to Hamil underneath for a 3-point play that put the contest out of reach with 18 seconds remaining.
“When you spend the whole game having to chase a shooter like that, it’s always difficult,” Marshall said. “I had to chase him off a lot of screens tonight. Here and there we did have some defensive breakdowns, but I did manage to stay in front of him most of the game. Coach (Mike) Ellis said he wanted two hands in his face every time he shot, so that’s what I tried to do.
“This really feels good. This is as big a game as the biggest game on our schedule, and we weren’t going to lose to them again.”
“Tonight was like a regional or sectional atmosphere (including TV cameras present for a delayed broadcast by ComCast network), and we’ll have to go into someone else’s gym and try to survive in a regional later on,” Ellis said. “Fremd’s a very good basketball team and they played hard. We have to parallel the lessons we learned tonight for later on.
“At the start of the year I told them that the guys who play the best defense will play the most, and Tre has embraced that role. He has offensive skills that are comparable to our other guards, and when the other team’s best scorer is a guard, that’s an automatic matchup for us. Tre is our defensive glue and he really played smart tonight.
“Silwa made some shots for them, but Tre did have a hand in his face. You’re not gonna win every battle out there, but you have to make it tough on the other guy.”
Evanston found the going tough after breaking out to an early 19-7 advantage, then stumbled when Eastern went to the bench with his second foul of the game. The Wildkits played perhaps their worst quarter so far in the 2015-16 campaign, turning the ball over 8 times in the second period and shooting just 2-of-9 from the field. They did manage to cling to a 23-17 halftime lead.
“We didn’t play smart in the second quarter,” Ellis admitted. “Nojel was in foul trouble and all those turnovers were costly for us. In the first quarter we got our transition game going, and then Fremd turned it around on us because of all those turnovers. We need to eliminate those mental errors to play at our best down the line this season.”
Senior forward Charlie Maxwell helped pick up the offensive slack with 9 points and 4 rebounds, and combined with Hamil to limit Fremd’s high scoring forward Patrick Benka to just 2 points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.