When Glenbrook South upset Evanston way back in the second week of the season, it looked “like they won the state championship,” in the eyes of Wildkits senior Jaheim Holden.
On Tuesday, Holden made sure the upstart Titans didn’t actually win that title.
The senior guard cashed out on four triples in the first half and finished with 18 points, leading No. 6 Evanston to an avenging 68-60 win over No. 25 Glenbrook South in front of a massive crowd at the Class 4A Niles North Sectional semifinal.
“That (loss) opened up our eyes to not look over anybody, to not underestimate anybody, and just play everybody straight-up,” said fellow Wildkits senior Lance Jones, who also tallied 18 points Tuesday. “Ever since that point, we’ve worked so much harder in practice and we’ve created more bond with each other.”
Evanston (29-4) came out bombing away, as Holden and sophomore sharpshooter Blake Peters (15 points) each made two 3-pointers within the game’s opening minutes, and that 12-3 lead gave Wildkits coach Mike Ellis the leverage he needed to dictate the game’s tempo throughout.
After a guns-blazing, fast-flying first half that lasted just 26 minutes of real time and ended with Evanston leading 40-32 — the Wildkits shot 8-of-12 from deep while the Titans (24-10) made 6-of-7 — Ellis slowed things way down in the second half.
With his team to struggling to Glenbrook South’s complex, screen- and handoff-laden playbook, he neutralized that disadvantage and milked that eight-point lead by limiting the number of possessions as much as possible.
“We’re not going to try to hurry up and score just so we can go down and guard 20, 30 actions of every screen in each possession. There is such a thing as playing defense with your offense,” Ellis said. “Our guys did a good job — sometimes if you take (away that fast-paced) strategy, it can short-circuit you, but our guys understood the rationale behind it and they were all on board.”
Junior star Dom Martinelli became the Titans’ exclusive source of offense down the stretch, finishing with 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting, but his team managed no three-pointers after halftime and Martinelli didn’t get much help. Mac Hubbard, after a red-hot 11-point first half, managed only two more points after the break; Will King, matched up against Evanston’s Ryan Bost, was rather shockingly held scoreless.
“I wish we could’ve run our offense the way we wanted to run it, I think it would’ve been hard for them to defend us,” Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said. “The way they would extend their pressure took us out of some of the things we wanted to do.”
Martinelli had a chance to bring the fifth-seeded Titans within five late in the third quarter, but a questionable charge call took the layup off the board. Ralston said he counted at least five calls he didn’t like.
“If that happens once or twice in a game, you can usually overcome it,” he said. “When it happens that many times, it’s hard to.”
Evanston will face the winner of Wednesday’s Schaumburg-Loyola semifinal in Friday’s sectional championship at Niles North.
The Wildkits have won 11 straight since a January loss to Bolingbrook, which came one day after a home win over Glenbrook South that earned a regular-season series split. Then on Tuesday, the Kits finally got the last word in the budding rivalry.
“At this point, we feel like we’re a very hard team to beat,” Jones said.