The second-to-last game on the Central Suburban League South division schedule turned out to be a coronation party for Evanston’s basketball team.
Already assured of their third consecutive conference championship, the Wildkits poured in 30 points in the first quarter and blitzed Glenbrook South 84-49 Friday night at the Titan Dome in Glenview.
That impressive first quarter performance featured 11-of-14 shooting from the field in a display of team basketball that ETHS fans have come to expect. All-State candidate Nojel Eastern only scored 1 point, but had a team-high 9 assists to set up double figure efforts by teammates Malcolm Townsel (18 points), Chris Hamil (15 points), Jaheim Holden (12 points) and Elyjah Williams (11 points). None of Evanston’s starters played more than half the one-sided contest.
Evanston’s third straight conference crown marks only the third time in the history of the program that the Kits have put together a three-peat, matching the 1984-85-86 and 1988-89-90 squads. And the only constant on the three current champs has been Eastern, who will leave his stamp as one of the best players in school history when he graduates.
The 2016-17 champs include one senior, Williams, who missed all of last season due to injury and Townsel, a senior who transferred in this fall. The willingness of the returning players to share the basketball with the newcomers is something head coach Mike Ellis will remember most about this year, even if the Kits make a deep run in Illinois High School Association postseason play.
Evanston, now 21-3 overall and 9-0 in the CSL South, totaled 22 assists on 33 field goals Friday night as the winners shot 59 percent from the field even with the starters only playing two quarters.
“I like the resolve and the character of this team, and I like the way they’re playing for one another better than at any other point this season,” said Ellis. “It all starts with Nojel, because over the past 3 years we haven’t had to have him average 20 points for us to win. We could play good team basketball at both ends of the floor and that allowed us to have the success we’ve had over the past 3 years. Maybe it’s just indicative of the kind of kids we have — they’re winners.
“I think the fast starts we’ve gotten off to lately shows their understanding of the moment, that in a couple of weeks the moment will be win or you go home. It happens to seniors when they know it’s their last chance, and we want to be playing our best basketball here at the end. When you add that element of seniors to the mix, that’s a pretty big factor.”
Evanston’s dominance of the conference this year was complete, although it won’t actually be complete until next Friday’s final home game versus Maine South. So far, no conference foe has come closer than 11 points to ETHS, and the Wildkits have held the competition under 50 points in five of those victories.
Determined to shed their reputation as slow starters, the Kits blitzed GBS 30-8 in the first 8 minutes with seniors Hamil, Townsel and Williams combining for 26 of those points. That advantage grew to 41-16 by halftime and to 67-33 after three quarters.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.