Evanston’s basketball team used a couple of scoring spurts in the second half to put away visiting Niles West by a 62-47 margin Friday night in Central Suburban League South division action.
But while the Wildkit fans who braved below zero temperatures outside to make the trip to Beardsley Gym might have walked away less than impressed by an ETHS team that couldn’t find a single hot hand on offense, head coach Mike Ellis still saw some growth as his young team improved to 12-3 on the season.
It’s the type of growth that found the Kits able to endure on a night where they were at less than their best, except for a 14-1 run in a two-minute stretch of the third quarter and a 17-3 outburst that sealed the win in the final period.
Four players — Lance Jones and Jaheim Holden with 16 points apiece and Blake Peters and Ryan Bost with 10 each — did reach double figures for the hosts as they earned their third league victory in four tries.
“That was ugly tonight. For as many weapons as we have on this team, we couldn’t find a hot hand,” Ellis said. “Except for those spurts we really just traded baskets with them all night. We needed to play a little smarter and we needed to play a little more aggressive than we did. We didn’t have that one person step up like we usually do. We didn’t get into any kind of a rhythm.
“But one thing I liked about tonight was that, when things weren’t going well, I didn’t see anyone dropping their heads or pointing their fingers at anyone else or pouting out there, and some of our guys have a history of doing that. Even though they weren’t sharp tonight, they played at an even keel. This was just one of those grinding games that you have to fight through, and I thought we did a good job of keeping our composure even when we were not as good as we wanted to be.”
Clinging to a mere 30-29 lead a couple of minutes into the second half, the Kits finally caught fire from 3-point range as Peters, Bost and Holden all connected from behind the arc in a surge that pushed the lead to 44-30 with 3 minutes, 37 seconds left in the third period.
But the Wolves (3-9 overall, 0-4 CSL South) responded with 10 unanswered points of their own and remained within striking distance, down 44-40 entering the final period.
ETHS dug in deeper at the defensive end, forced 5 turnovers in the next four minutes, and put the game out of reach on three consecutive fast-break buckets by Holden. Niles West didn’t score a single point until Kevin Guillaume’s traditional 3-point play with 2:32 left in the game.
“It’s a fine line you walk when you want to apply pressure on defense,” Ellis pointed out. “In the first half I felt like we bailed them out because we’d gamble and miss. We were much more solid with our pressure in the second half.
“We had a lot of trouble containing (Clyde) Singleton (game-high 23 points) and that gave Niles West some life in that first half. But I thought Lance’s rebounding (7 boards) helped stabilize things for us. He cleaned up on the boards and that’s how we got on those runs.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.