COVID-19 has stolen so much from so many people. High school basketball is a small thing in the larger scheme of the world, but watching a teenager get something back during all this is a joy.
That’s what Kai Evans experienced Tuesday in Frankfort. Bolingbrook’s star senior was all set to leave his town and his friends and head west to a prep school. He needed to play basketball his senior year. But then everything changed and a season with the Raiders became possible.
Evans scored 20 points to lead visiting Bolingbrook to a 73-67 win against host Lincoln-Way East.
The Raiders play fast and flashy. It’s terrific to watch. No-look passes, stylish basketball. It’s the type of thing only players that know each other well can pull off.
“It was everything I wanted,” Evans said. “I just wanted to come home and represent my hometown because that’s all I wanted as a kid growing up watching BHS greats. And playing with my childhood friends.”
The Raiders poured in 31 points in the first quarter of their season. Evans had 11 in the frame. But then the machine started to clog a bit.
“You saw really good Bolingbrook and then you saw Bolingbrook that’s been off for 11 months,” Raiders coach Rob Brost said. “We have work to do. So this was really a perfect game for us to play an opponent on the road and start like we did and share like we did, especially at the beginning. And then some shots didn’t fall for us.”
The Griffins (0-2) weathered the early storm admirably and made it a fun fourth quarter. Lincoln-Way East sophomore Khalil Ross tied the game at 60 with a rebound and putback.
“They switched their defense and we didn’t execute like we were supposed to,” Evans said. “But we will go over it in practice and get it right.”
But Bolingbrook (1-0) shot 9-for-11 from the free-throw line in the final four minutes to seal the win.
“There’s no excuses at this point,” Brost said. “Everybody’s in the same boat. We need to execute a little bit better. But we continue to get better. And this season is just about playing right now. Obviously we want to win but we’re so thankful that we’re able to play.”
Senior point guard Kyonte Thomas scored 13 for the Raiders and dished off some beautiful assists. Sophomores Donaven Younger and Keon Alexander each scored nine. Michael Osei-Bonsu, a 6-4 junior, missed all of last season with an injury. He started and scored six points and grabbed six rebounds.
“We will have practices where he literally gets every rebound, every single one,” Brost said. “He plays super hard, but he’s very raw. He’s just a junior. So he’s gonna continue to get better and better.”
Junior Jack Vegter led Lincoln-Way East with 21 points off the bench. He’s a confident three-point shooter with a nice all-around floor game.
“I don’t have a ton of varsity experience so this was a big deal,” Vegter said. “I work super hard over the summer and for it to pay off now feels great.”
Watch the final minute of Bolingbrook at Lincoln-Way East: