Just two games into his high school basketball career, Blake Peters already knows that his teammates have his back.
The Evanston freshman bounced back from a dismal shooting performance in his Wildkit debut and fired in three 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter Tuesday night to rally Evanston to a 63-58 victory over Prospect in the second round of the St. Viator Thanksgiving Tournament.
The Wildkits improved to 2-0 and will be idle until they conclude tourney play Friday at 5 p.m. against Conant and Saturday at 3 p.m. versus Libertyville.
Peters’ marksmanship from beyond the 3-point arc was just what the Kits needed in the fourth quarter. And the fact that his teammates trusted him with the game on the line sent a message that Evanston’s team chemistry isn’t adversely affected by the fact that four freshman have already earned significant playing time this season.
Peters’ 1-for-7 shooting in the opener against Highland Park, including a couple of air balls, wasn’t exactly a promising start for the 6-foot freshman. But it marked the first time in his career he took the court against players he grew up with in that community before moving to Evanston this summer, and there were Giants’ fans in the stands who celebrated every one of his misses.
It was Peters’ turn to celebrate on Tuesday.
“I really needed that tonight,” said the ETHS freshman. “Last night I was extremely nervous and it showed in the way I played. It was a difficult situation, but my teammates helped me through it. They were very supportive and they were telling me all day that they knew my next shot was going in.
“You’re always confident as a shooter, but sometimes you do question yourself. When I got in tonight I just tried not to think about it. Thankfully, tonight my teammates found me in my (shooting) spots and I was able to knock them down.”
Two of Peters’ treys came on inbound passes on plays designed for the first-year player to pull the trigger.
“I think those two plays showed that the other kids have trust in him,” said Evanston coach Mike Ellis. “They have as much confidence in Blake as anyone.
They did a nice job of finding him on those out-of-bounds passes, and you could say our ‘special teams’ won the game for us tonight.
“I knew Blake was too good of a shooter to have an off-night two nights in a row. At that point in the game we needed some stabilization because we were struggling to score. Once he hit that first one, it lifted everyone else up. We have a lot of confidence in his ability to put the ball in the basket.”
The Wildkits fell behind 47-42 in the first minute of the fourth period before Peters began to make an impact. He banked in a 3-point shot, then added two more buckets from long range as part of a 14-4 surge that enabled ETHS to seize the lead for good.
Leading scorer Lance Jones (21 points) added a pair of drives for scores and the Kits withstood a barrage of missed 3-point attempts (6) by the Knights in the last 70 seconds to hold on.
Jaheim Holden netted 19 points for the winners, who led 28-22 at halftime but fell behind 43-42 after the Knights carved up their man-to-man defense and went 9-of-11 from the floor in the third period. Guard David Swedura paced Prospect with 15 points.
“We’re very inconsistent as a team right now,” added Ellis. “We have a few guys who do some things very well, and we have a few guys who don’t do some things very well. As a team, I think we need to get a little more gritty, too.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.