Does an Evanston team with serious Class 4A title aspirations actually care about winning the Central Suburban championship?
Blake Peters will happily offer an answer. “No, not really,” the star sophomore said.
But that didn’t stop the No. 6 Wildkits from earning it anyway, dominating Glenbrook North 68-47 on Wednesday behind 18 points from senior Lance Jones en route to their second conference title in three years.
“That’s the best shooting team I’ve seen in a long time,” Spartans coach David Weber said. “We went in with our scouting report that they didn’t shoot the three well, but they completely surprised us. That was a clinic on shooting — they came out and hit three in a row, and it just kept building and building, and then if we had to get out on them, they penetrated.”
Evanston (26-4, 9-1 CSL South) shot 9-of-20 from three-point range; Glenbrook North (17-11, 9-1 CSL North) made only 3-of-17 from beyond the arc.
That allowed the host Kits to key on Spartans big men Frank Siegien and Brian Johnson, whom they held to a combined 11 points. Glenbrook North, conversely, was forced to to spread its defense apart and open up room for Jones to repeatedly penetrate inside.
“I just found what was working for me, I didn’t want to force anything,” said Jones, the Southern Illinois recruit. “I just wanted to make the easy play and not complicate winning.”
Evanston jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter and went into halftime up 33-21, but the product had been far from pretty. Wildkits coach Mike Ellis said the team identified three things to improve after the break — better help-side defense, more communication and smarter passes — and executed well on all three objectives.
“There were peaks and valleys in our play tonight,” Ellis said. “Our guys kind of felt at halftime they weren’t playing their best, and they came out a little more determined, a little more solid, a little less frenetic.”
Jaheim Holden added 13 points, Jaylin Gibson tallied 11 points and a game-high six rebounds and a whopping 11 different Kits players eventually found the scoreboard. The Spartans were led by Alex Press, who scored 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Of course, Evanston will be right back in action at Beardsley Gym next Tuesday for its first of likely two sectional home games, and the team has not just one but both its collective eyes squarely fixated on those first steps in state playoffs.
“We were not focused on this game,” Peters said. “We’re trying to go downstate and win it all.”