At home or on the road, Evanston’s commitment to playing stifling defense on the basketball court doesn’t change.
Before departing to Ohio for a pair of games at the LeBron James Classic this weekend, the Wildkits showed their ability to maintain their focus in the early stages of the Central Suburban League division race by subduing rival New Trier 54-37 Tuesday night in Winnetka.
The Wildkits, now 8-1 overall, limited the host Trevians (4-3) to 36 percent (14-of-39) shooting on their home court and dominated the battle of conference unbeatens from the opening tip.
Just to make sure that every player was focused on Tuesday’s game, the Kits decided among themselves that they weren’t going to settle for their usual team defensive goal.
“The coaches prepared us all week to be in more of an attack mode on defense,” said senior co-captain Chris Hamil, who finished with 7 points. “So our goal tonight was to hold them to less than 40 points. Usually our goal is less than 50 points, but we decided as a team to come out and play some of our best defense.
“Winning the conference this year is definitely one of our goals, and we knew a win tonight would help get us into that No. 1 spot (alone).”
While there was probably no chance that the conference contest against an arch-rival would ever fall into the category of a “trap” game, Evanston head coach Mike Ellis was still pleased by his team’s performance. Lance Jones and Malcolm Townsel each scored 10 points, and Nojel Eastern included a memorable dunk among his 9 points, 7 assists and a game-high 11 rebounds.
The winners limited New Trier’s “twin towers”, 6-foot-8 sophomore Spencer Boehm and 6-9 sophomore Ciaran Brayboy, to a combined 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“Playing New Trier at New Trier, I don’t think there was much of a chance that our guys were going to overlook that obstacle,” Ellis pointed out. “Normally coming into a game we want to hold the other team under 50, but they committed to the cause of keeping New Trier under 40 — and they backed it up.
“We did a good job of forcing turnovers (21) and contesting shots tonight. I thought that was the key. We knew we had to negate their size to keep them from turning it into a layup drill.”
The Wildkits held New Trier to just 6 field goals in the first half and enjoyed a comfortable 26-18 lead. They stretched that margin to 39-24 after three quarters, as Eastern supplied the exclamation point to the period with a flush of a missed shot by teammate Ryan Bost with 17 seconds left in the quarter.
Elyjah Williams contributed 7points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals for ETHS.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.