Evanston coach Mike Ellis didn’t want the game with Maine South Thursday to come down to a 1-on-1 battle between South’s 6-foot-11 Brad Perry and ETHS’ 6-5 Dylan Mulvihill.

That’s the last thing Mulvihill wanted, too.

So with a little help from his friends, Mulvihill held the Hawks’ post player scoreless in the second half and helped the Wildkits score a 58-53 Central Suburban League South division victory at Beardsley Gym.

Mulvihill outscored Perry 15-11 and outrebounded him by a 10-6 margin, including a couple of key defensive rebounds in the fourth quarter when the Hawks staged a surge aided by poor Evanston free throw shooting.

Mulvihill, Nojel Eastern (17 points) and Chris Hamil (10 points, 5 assists) all reached double figures as defending champion Evanston completed the first round of conference play with a perfect 5-0 record and took a two-game lead in the league chase. The Wildkits improved to 13-2 overall.

Mulvihill’s contributions were critical considering that Evanston will likely be without the team’s other “twin tower” until the start of postseason play. Junior Elyjah Williams will undergo surgery on his toe next week and will miss 6-8 weeks — effectively the rest of the regular season.

“With Elyjah out I know I have to do more, especially when it comes to rebounding,” said Mulvihill, who converted 6-of-8 field goal attempts to help the hosts shoot 48 percent (21-of-44) as a team. “We knew Maine South would get some runs tonight, but we also knew we had to stay calm and get some stops when they started doing that.

“I definitely had to be more aggressive tonight. It was really a battle in the beginning against him (Perry) A guy that size is going to get his baskets — you won’t hold him scoreless. I just had to be more focused on defense because I know he’s not going to pass the ball out once he gets it. I had to fight for position because that’s how he scored all of his baskets in the first half. I learned from my mistakes and got better position against him in the second half.”

Mulvihill finished strong after opening the fourth quarter by missing a dunk attempt on Evanston’s first possession. Maine South (12-4, 3-2) had rallied from a double digit deficit by pouring in 20 points in the third quarter alone and closed to within 49-44 on two free throws by Jon Arenas (game-high 23 points) with 5 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the game.

Mulvihill’s putback of a Hamil miss — following a Maine South turnover — restored the lead to 9 points at the 1:45 mark and the Wildkits hung on despite missing 9 free throws in the final period.

“We played a good first half,” conceded Ellis, “but we need to be more consistent than we were in the second half tonight. When Maine South got into a flow, our defense was suspect. Any time you give up 20 points in a quarter, you’re in trouble.

“Dylan made some big free throws and some timely baskets for us tonight, and he deserves a lot of credit for a couple of stops late in the game. He not only got some big rebounds against Perry, but he got his fourth and fifth fouls on those plays, too.

“We didn’t support Dylan enough on defense in the first half, but in the second half he did a better job of fighting for position and his teammates gave him better support in the post. This is a big win for us because there’s so much parity in this league that you can’t even take a possession off. Now we’ve got a 2-game lead and that’s big.”

Perry made all 5 of his field goal attempts in the first half and didn’t even get off a shot in the second half, when Arenas and Milos Ljiljak (16 points) took over the scoring burden for the Hawks. South’s third quarter comeback coincided with the fact that Eastern, who netted 15 points in the first half, picked up two personal fouls and spent most of the period on the bench.

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.

Dennis Mahoney

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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