Evanston’s basketball team doesn’t always put its best foot forward at the When Sides Collide shootout event at Glenbard East High School.
It’s more an issue of timing than anything else for the Wildkits, because it’s usually the day after they draw Maine South on the Central Suburban League South division schedule and that’s always a difficult matchup.
It was more of the same on Saturday --- but only for a half, before Evanston drilled Normal West 79-60 and earned its 20th victory of the season.
Another dazzling shooting performance by sophomore Blake Peters from 3-point range --- he fired in 7 shots from beyond the arc, all in the second half --- keyed a Wildkit surge, including a 29-point splurge in the fourth quarter that turned the game into a rout.
Peters scored a game-high 24 points after only attempting one field goal in the first half as ETHS pulled away from a slight 35-31 advantage against Normal West (8-14 overall) at halftime. The Wildkits were able to turn the tables on the visitors from Central Illinois after Normal connected on 7 treys in the first half.
Seniors Ryan Bost and Lance Jones netted 17 points apiece for the winners, but just as important, provided the leadership the Kits needed to get on track in the second half.
“I thought we went through the motions for a period of the game today, and that’s when (co-captains) Lance and Ryan put their fingerprints on the game,” praised Evanston head coach Mike Ellis. “At halftime we challenged them because we wanted them to solve their issues on their own. And that’s what happened. The next step for this team is for the seniors to coach the team, too. We want them to have their own fingerprints on the game.
“I thought our aggressiveness increased throughout the game. They zoned us (on defense) the whole game and we couldn’t let that zone control us. We still had to be aggressive and take the fight to them. We played better defense in the second half, too, and that’s why our offense played better. It all goes hand in hand.”
The hottest hand in the state of Illinois right now belongs to Peters. He converted 7-of-9 3-point attempts after tying the school single game record the previous night with 9 against Maine South. If there’s such a thing as a two-game “record” it belongs to the sophomore sniper now.
“I think what Blake showed you today is his maturity level,” the coach said. “He never gets too up and he never gets too down and he didn’t let last night affect him. He just turned around and gave another value performance the next day.”
Normal West, which had won 3 of its 4 most recent games despite the below .500 overall record, shot 7-of-16 as a team from 3-point range in the first half to stay in contention with an Evanston team ranked 9th in the state in the most recent Associated Press Class 4A state poll. The Wildcats still only trailed 46-42 late in the third stanza when Bost connected on a deep 3 and Peters added a free throw in the final 60 seconds.
Evanston scored on its first two possessions of the fourth quarter --- on Peters’ trey and a length of the court layup for Jones --- and the rout was on.
As a team, Evanston shot 15-of-31 from 3-point distance and Itchy Holden contributed a couple of bombs along with a team-high 9 assists off the bench.
“Getting that 20th win is a landmark for any high school basketball team,” noted Ellis, whose squad faces road games next week at Loyola Academy, Niles North and Oak Park-River Forest. “We have a tough week coming up and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get that 20th win today.
“Playing in this event we have to opportunity to let people (media, college coaches) evaluate the strength of our team and it’s great for our kids to be in this environment. This is a great event.”