Conant’s experienced 1-2 punch knocked Evanston’s basketball team out of the unbeaten ranks Friday at the St. Viator Thanksgiving Tournament.
The defending tournament champions surrendered a combined 42 points to Conant’s Ryan Davis and Ben Schols and dropped a 61-54 decision in the third round of tournament play. The Wildkits, now 2-1, will close out tournament play Saturday at 3 p.m. against Libertyville.
Davis, a 6-foot-9 post player who is committed to Vermont, scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Schols went a perfect 7-for-7 from the field on his way to 17 points for the winners, now 2-1. Freshman Blake Peters (15 points) and junior Jaheim Holden (13 points, 4 assists, 3 steals) paced Evanston.
“Schols and Davis really hurt us,” admitted ETHS head coach Mike Ellis. “We had to take one of them out of the game to have a chance to win, and we didn’t do it. Of the five guys who played significant minutes last year, their returning two guys got the better of our three guys. Everyone else (on both teams) is still trying to find a way to make an impact.
“We have to have more fortitude, more toughness and be more cohesive as a team. We need to talk and communicate on defense a lot better as a team. We have to talk first so we can eliminate mistakes BEFORE they can happen. We need to find a way to get back to playing sound, fundamental defense.”
Conant’s 3-2 zone defense limited Evanston’s 3-point shooters to a combined 2-for-10 performance in the first half as the Wildkits fell behind 25-21. The losers finished with a respectable 7-of-25 showing overall, and Ellis is still confident that his players will find the range from that distance sooner rather than later this season.
“Those were open shots, not shots with hands in their faces,” the coach pointed out. “We have to get a little more toughness. Right now I don’t think we’re playing with an edge.”
A 17-footer by Schols beat the third quarter buzzer and lifted the Cougars to a 41-39 advantage, after the Kits had clawed their way into ties at 34-34, 36-36 and 39-39. A 3-point shot by Lance Jones (10 points) on the first possession of the final period marked Evanston’s last lead.
Davis, who was held scoreless in the third stanza due partly to foul trouble, returned to net 13 points in the fourth quarter.
A free throw by Evanston’s Matt Hall cut the deficit to 53-47 with 1 minute, 37 seconds remaining and Hall just missed making a defensive stop at halfcourt to keep the Kits’ bid alive. But Conant coach Jim Maley was awarded a timeout just before a potential 5-second “held ball” count against Davis that could have resulted in a turnover.
“At that point it was more desperation for us than anything else,” said Ellis. “We needed to get something like more stops before that play happened. Even when we did get stops in the second half, we didn’t capitalize at the other end.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.