Playing basketball possession by possession isn’t glamourous and won’t guarantee your team a state ranking.
But the coach of the state’s 5th-ranked basketball squad isn’t worried about the kind of impression his team is making on anyone outside Evanston’s lockerroom at this stage of the season.
So the fact that Evanston had to outscore host Loyola Academy 19-6 in the fourth quarter Tuesday night to secure a 46-31 nonconference victory over the Ramblers didn’t make it difficult for Evanston coach Mike Ellis to place a positive spin on the outcome.
And the fact that his players had to listen to the chant “Overrated! Overrated!” from opposing fans for the second straight game fell on deaf ears — at least as far as Ellis was concerned after his team improved to 15-2 on the season.
Chris Hamil scored a team-high 10 points and Dylan Mulvihill added 8 for the winners, including back-to-back baskets to help break the game open early in the fourth quarter.
“Tonight we did a good job of locking in on defense and focusing on one possession at a time,” Ellis said. “We played intelligent basketball, we played hard and we stayed in the moment. Our offensive rebounds (13 compared to Loyola’s 1) made the difference in the game and that’s because we showed a will not to give up (after a missed shot). We were able to move on to the next play, because we stayed in the moment. It was good to see that process tonight.
“We don’t care what opinions are outside of our lockerroom, or what others who are doing rankings think of us. We only have to impress ourselves. Loyola is a well-coached team that plays hard on defense, and if you look at their scores, teams aren’t getting to 50 points against them and no one blows them out. With our schedule this year we’re always getting other teams’ best shot. Right now we’re in the middle of a very challenging part of our schedule (5 games in 10 days) and this is a chance for us to have a lot of growth as a team.”
Loyola (8-10 overall) made things difficult for the visitors with long, drawn-out possessions on offense and only trailed 27-25 entering the fourth quarter. Then the Wildkits got untracked on offense, twice finding Mulvihill inside for baskets — one of them a one-handed dunk — and gradually pulling away to a double-digit lead.
“When another team guards you strong and stays in the gaps in the paint so you can’t drive the lane, sometimes you think you can’t pass the ball in there, either,” Ellis pointed out. “That’s not true. In the fourth quarter our ball movement was a lot better, and that opened up the passing lanes for us.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.