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Sweet-shooting Blake Peters, dynamic Evanston offense downs Rockford East

Evanston's Blake Peters (15) makes a move on Rockford East's Damarian Dickens (13), Friday 03-15-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

PEORIA—Blake Peters’ shot is beautiful. It’s almost a shock when it doesn’t swish through the basket.

The Evanston sophomore was dazzling on Friday at Carver Arena, scoring 27 points and making 7-of-8 three-pointers to lead the Wildkits to a 94-82 win against Rockford East in the Class 4A state semifinals.

“My teammates gave me the ball in my spots, I have to credit them for that,” Peters said. “It just comes down to performing, and that’s what we did tonight.”

It was a record-setting performance for the Wildkits, who set Class 4A state records for points scored in a game, a half and a quarter.

“We came out like we were on a mission, and I think that was a big part of the reason we played so well — from the start at the jump ball on through halftime,” Evanston coach Mike Ellis said.

The Wildkits were awe-inspiring in the first half. Their fast hands gave the E-Rabs fits defensively and the offense was a whirlwind of passing and jump shots.

“I think we all like being on the big stage, especially with what happened last year,” Peters said. “We were really hurt by that loss, and we just came here with a brotherhood theme.”

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Senior Lance Jones scored 24 and had eight assists and five rebounds for Evanston. Jaheim Holden scored 15. Sophomore Jaylin Gibson added 10 points and seven rebounds, and senior Ryan Bost scored 10.

“We just came out with that sense of urgency and confidence, and we knew what it took to perform at a high level,” Jones said.

Senior Chris Burnell led Rockford East (34-3) with 26 points, and Sha’Den Clanton had 20 points and seven rebounds. Highly-regarded junior Sincere Parker added 13 points and seven rebounds.

The E-Rabs, one of the state’s best teams this season, were just outclassed by the Wildkits (32-4). Most observers assumed the winner of the second semifinal, Belleville West vs. Curie, would be the favorite to win the title. Evanston’s performance likely changed many minds.

“We made a statement, but I think it’s going to be a bigger statement made tomorrow,” Holden said. “A lot of people think that we can’t stick with teams like Belleville and Curie because of the size that we have. But when we step in between those lines, we’re the toughest players, so it’s going to come down to that and we’re going to show people.”