Evanston’s fourth quarter lead in the first round of the Battle of the Bridge Thanksgiving Tournament against Mount Carmel seemed to melt away faster than the snow from the year’s first storm Monday.

But career-best performances by Elyjah Williams and Malik Jenkins helped the Wildkits hold on for a 70-65 victory at the round-robin tourney held at DePaul Prep.

Williams stashed in 19 points and Jenkins contributed 16 to help ETHS build a 23-point advantage early in the fourth period. The Caravan, however, kept cutting into the deficit and trimmed the lead to 68-65 with just over 1 second remaining in regulation on a 3-point play by Nick Chambers, who finished with a game-high 24 points.


Two free throws by ETHS junior Chris Hamil then provided the final 5-point margin.

“I thought in the third quarter (when the winners outscored the Caravan 23-15) we were pretty aggressive. We shared the basketball and found the right guy,” said Evanston coach Mike Ellis. “But we got a little careless and we made some mental mistakes in the fourth quarter. We just have to play a little smarter and work on finishing the game better.

“Elyjah had a nice game for us tonight, but I thought a lot of his production was due to the rest of the team being so aggressive. I remember Tre Marshall driving the lane and hitting Elyjah for a layup, and Nojel (Eastern) hit him with a good post pass in the fourth quarter. It could be any of the 5 guys we have on the floor who are in the right place at the right time. Tonight it was Elyjah who had the mismatch, and the idea is for us to find the advantage and attack that.

“Give Mount Carmel credit, because they fought back and they didn’t fold.”

Williams converted 8-of-10 field goal attempts and showed that his summer of hard work paid immediate dividends. The same could be said for Jenkins, who only shot 19 percent from 3-point range last year but opened with a bang on Monday, sinking 4-of-6 from downtown.

“Last year I wasn’t aggressive enough out there, so I made a plan to get better on offense,” Jenkins explained. “I worked really hard to be able to hit open shots, and play my game. I made 1,000 shots in one day this summer — that was a goal I had — and I was real confident shooting tonight.”

Leading 37-26 at halftime, Evanston pulled away in the third quarter behind 9 points from Williams, including a rare 3-point bucket by the 6-foot-6 junior. Evanston’s edge reached 64-41 in the first minute of the final period.

Marshall’s solid all-around floor game included 7 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists for the winners. He provided a boost when Eastern, who didn’t start the game because he missed practice last week due to illness, was plagued with foul trouble and was only able to play 11 total minutes. The junior guard did throw down a dunk with 40 seconds left in the game after earlier missing a jam attempt. He finished with 4 points and 4 rebounds.

“I feel bad for Nojel. He’s been waiting to play for 8 months and he could only play 4 or 5 minutes early because of the foul trouble,” Ellis noted. “We’re still trying to find some continuity when he’s out there on the floor because the other kids have gotten used to playing without him. We’re just trying to get that mesh put together because when Nojel’s out there, he can bring us to another level.”

Evanston resumes tournament play Tuesday at 6 p.m. against Chicago Taft, which dropped an 83-55 decision to host DePaul in the other first-round matchup.

Source: ETHS Sports Information

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