Evanston’s basketball team survived a week of semester exams — and almost flunked their only Central Suburban League South division test this week.
Two key steals by Lance Jones and four made free throws in the final 18 seconds of the extra period by Jaheim Holden and Blake Peters allowed the Wildkits to escape from the Titan Dome with a 60-58 overtime triumph against last place Glenbrook South.
Evanston (14-3 overall, 5-1 CSL South) scored its 5th straight win, but in less than impressive fashion as Jones, Peters and Holden each scored 16 points. GBS, which scored almost all of its points in the paint, fell to 6-11 and 0-6, respectively, after shooting 56 percent from the field.
The Wildkits almost got caught looking ahead to Saturday’s 1 p.m. matchup with the No. 6 ranked team in the state in Class 3A — DePaul Prep — at the When Sides Collide shootout event at Glenbard East High School.
“The first game after exam week is always a challenge. We found a way to win down the stretch,” said Evanston head coach Mike Ellis. “We stayed in the present in the overtime and we didn’t panic after a questionable last shot at the end of the game. For them to keep their composure like that on the road was a positive, I think.
“Give Glenbrook South credit because they did a good job of executing their offense, but I don’t think we were very solid on defense tonight. We were tested by their solid play on and off the ball. We struggled to guard them because we didn’t want to put out the effort. We were too casual tonight and our (double-team) traps were too soft. They just split them and got to the basket.”
Evanston’s man-to-man defense surrendered 31 points in the third and fourth quarters combined, but GBS didn’t lead until Mac Hubbard scored only his second basket of the game, a 3-point shot with 55 seconds remaining to lift the Titans to a 50-49 advantage.
A drive to the bucket by the crafty Holden restored the ETHS lead with 37 seconds to play in regulation, but the hosts had a chance to pull off the upset when Dom Martinelli (game-high 19 points) earned two chances at the free throw line with 6.7 seconds left on the clock. The first try clanged off the back iron, but he swished the second attempt for a 51-51 deadlock.
Evanston still had plenty of time to get off a shot, but Jones inexplicably launched from just inside halfcourt with a couple of seconds still remaining. The air ball sent the Wildkits into overtime for the second straight week.
In the OT, neither team scored until Jones stole the ball and scored a layup with 2 minutes, 37 seconds left. A subsequent 3-point basket by Peters gave the visitors some breathing room, Jones registered another steal with the Kits nursing a 3-point lead, and only a 3-point basket by Hubbard at the buzzer kept the final margin close.
“Lance and Jaheim both played solid games at the end for us, and that’s how we expect them to play every night,” said Ellis about the two junior guards. “Lance made a questionable decision there at the end because he didn’t understand the clock. I think he felt responsible for the game going to overtime and he wanted to make up for that (in the overtime). He took ownership guarding the basketball and got two big steals for us.”
Evanston converted 9-of-19 3-point field goals, its best performance in several games. Senior Harry Porter tossed in a pair of treys in the third quarter to help the Wildkits maintain a slim 38-35 lead after three quarters.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.