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Defense carries Maine South past Evanston

Maine South coach Tony Lavorato sees some similarities between his team and the Evanston Wildkits this year.

“They are very much like us,” said Lavorato. “They have older players but they don’t have a lot of experience and we have older players who don’t have a lot of experience.

“We finished our top 8 and they finished their top 7, but to talk about my team, it took our boys the first half of the year to somehow learn how to play.”

And on Friday night Maine South played what might be the most complete game of the season against visiting Evanston.

The Hawks won 54-37 with a relentless defensive effort in a boys’ basketball match in Central Suburban South in Park Ridge.

It looked like it was Maine South’s night from the first tip when a Hawks steal then a layup from Nick Rentas helped bring the home team to a 15-10 lead in a quarter.

Then the Hawks put in a nice run in the second quarter and after a turnaround bucket in the color of Julian Triffo, a 3-pointer from Rentas led, Maine South led 25-13.

At this point, the Hawks’ defense (8-3, 1-2) was really in full swing, with Evanston in almost 2 minutes of possession with the Wildkits unable to fire.

“We have to learn to win and finish 32 minutes,” said Lavorato, “and tonight I thought defensively that this was about as close to a 32-minute game that we were playing.”

Evanston’s energetic, wild full field press in the middle of the third quarter resulted in a 7-0 run for the Wildkits, but a strong long-range sequence before the Hawks had extended the lead.

First, Junior Guard Kaden Karstens put a long 3-pointer from well over the tip of the key, then Rentas followed with 2 consecutive 3s.

The Hawks reached the final third with 17 points, largely thanks to overall play from Rentas, a 6-foot-4 senior.

“Nick did a really good job for us and he set the tone,” said Lavorato. “He’s long, can play defensively, plays great offensively and just instinctively takes a lot of pressure off us.

“He’s evenly balanced and Nick has been a nice calming influence on us.”

Maine South opened the fourth quarter with a steal from Ryne Sterling making a quick feed on Rentas who sent a nice pass to Karstens with a quick break.

Karstens drowned the ensuing layup in traffic, and Maine South went on from there to victory when Evanston, despite hard efforts, got no closer than 16 points in the second half.

Rentas finished with 19 points while teammate Triffo added 12 points and 8 rebounds. Karstens scored 10 points and was strong on the 6 board glass too.

“Evanston is Evanston and they’re a well-trained team,” said Lavorato. “Our boys have a lot to cover offensively, but tonight I was very happy with the way we bounced the ball back and with our ability to move it.”

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