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ETHS boys basketball: Wildkits defense helps take down Notre Dame 54-38

Bad offense can be as contagious as the Omicron virus.

The cure? For the Evanston Township High School boys basketball team, it turned out to be better defense Saturday night at Beardsley High School.

Evanston’s Prince Adams (4) soars over the Glenbrook North defense for a shot during the Wildkits’ 64-58 win at Beardsley Gym on Jan. 27, 2023. Held to just 2 points in the first half of Saturday’s game against Notre Dame, Adams let loose in the second half with a pair of rebound baskets and a 3-point field goal off an inbounds play. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

After the War On The Shore event played out as more of a tug-of-war between two ineffective offenses in the first half, the Wildkits scored 22 unanswered points in the third quarter on their way to an eventual 54-38 victory over Notre Dame College Preparatory.

Evanston forced seven turnovers in the third quarter and pulled away for its eighteenth win of the season against six losses. Notre Dame fell to 12-12 in the final game of an annual tripleheader to raise funds for the Danny Did Foundation to aid epilepsy research.

New Trier defeated DePaul College Prep 58-42 and Bolingbrook High School tripped Loyola Academy 60-52 in the other two matchups.

Even in games where they’ve forced more turnovers this season than their opponents, the Wildkits haven’t been able to capitalize on most of those enemy mistakes at the other end. That wasn’t the case against the Notre Dame Dons.

Notre Dame’s two best players transferred away before the season and another top player is currently injured. So the Dons often hold the ball for extended minutes if their foes let them, including a 23-19 loss to Mundelein Carmel Catholic High School on Friday.

But the War On The Shore featured a 35-second shot clock for all three games and there was no deep freeze available to them. The best the Dons could try was to play old school high school basketball, work the paint and try to draw as many fouls as possible.

It worked – for a half.

Evanston’s Duncan Hunter (11) reaches for the ball against Glenbrook North’s Josh Fridman (0) during the Wildkits’ 64-58 win at Beardsley Gym on Jan. 27, 2023. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

“We challenged our players at halftime because we just didn’t think they were as invested enough in the game as they needed to be in the first half,” said ETHS head coach Mike Ellis. “We told them they had to fight to take ownership of the game. They realized that Notre Dame had scored eight baskets in the paint—and we had none. That’s all you need to know right there.

“Sometimes we try to play for the spectacular play, and then we can’t get the stops to go the other way (and score in transition). Tonight we ended up with a lot of primary breaks because it started with being in the right positions on defense. It’s all connected, because when you’re in the right position and you convert from defense to offense, you will get those chances for early offense, too.”

Evanston’s Josh Thomas (15) shoots over Glenbrook South’s Nick Taylor (4) and Rodell Davis Jr. (15) against the Titans at GBS on Jan. 13, 2023. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Notre Dame went 9 minutes without a field goal during one stretch, yet only trailed 19-18 after scoring a free throw in its first possession of the second half.

That’s when the Wildkits broke loose, especially senior forward Prince Adams. Held to just 2 points in the first half, Adams fueled that 22-0 run with a pair of rebound baskets and a 3-point field goal off an inbounds play. Hunter Duncan, Josh Thomas and Brandon Watson also chipped in with scores before senior co-captain Addison Blough finished off the surge with back-to-back 3-point buckets that caused the ETHS bench to erupt.

The hosts led 41-21 after that damage was done and coasted to their eighteenth victory.

“Addison did a great job again for us tonight. He’s been the glue for us,” praised Ellis. “He hit a 3, took a charge on defense, and then he hit another 3. He’s such a hard worker and I think he’s everyone’s favorite teammate. The whole team got excited about that stretch of his.”

Evanston’s Brandon Watson (2) drives past Glenbrook North’s Sam Lappin (4) during the Wildkits’ 64-58 win at Beardsley Gym on Jan. 27, 2023. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Evanston shot 9-of-21 from 3-point range (“I’ll take that any night,” said the coach) and 50% (21-of-42) from the field overall. Adams topped the stat chart with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocked shots while Duncan delivered 12 points and 5 assists for the winners.

Notre Dame scored the last eight points of the contest but still couldn’t reach the 40 plateau. Brady Sehlhorst notched 12 points to lead the Dons.

Evanston returns to Central Suburban League South division action Tuesday at Maine South.

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