March Madness

Guard-heavy lineup looks to make a run for state


Jesse Bond

Junior Lance Jones drives through New Trier defenders to score.

Ben Baker-Katz, Sports Editor

The varsity basketball team has played some of the best competition in the state so far this season, such as Niles North, New Trier, and Loyola.

    “They [Wildkits] don’t have a huge weakness,” said Loyola coach Tom Livatino. “They should be very excited for state playoff basketball.”

    There’s no question the Kits have had a dominant season. They’re ranked sixth in the state, with a 20-5 record.

    “We knew that they were going to be good again this year, especially with three returning guards,” said New Trier coach Scott Fricke. “The addition of Blake Peters also helps a lot.”

    Everyone seems to be talking about the four guards: juniors Lance Jones, Jaheim Holden, Ryan Bost and freshman Blake Peters.

    “All four of them are really playing at a high level,” said Livatino. “They all score the ball well, Coach Ellis does great job with them.”

     The Kits have played 12 of their 25 games this year against teams that are seeded in the top 5 in their sectionals.

     “We knew going in that it was going to be a battle,” said Loyola senior guard Peter Mangan. “And that’s what it turned out to be.”

    Loyola was able to hold ETHS to a 42% field goal, and just 18% from beyond the arc.

     “They gave us more problems [on defense] than I thought they would,” said Livatino. “They don’t allow you to get into your offense.”

     ETHS forced 16 Loyola turnovers in that game, doubling their season average of eight per game.

    Livatino’s players agreed; the defense gave them a lot of trouble. The Kits have a defensive efficiency rating of 60%, one of the best in the conference.

   “They guard really well, and they force a great tempo.” said Mangan.

    In addition to the tempo ETHS creates, their defensive execution prevented Loyola from getting the ball into the paint.

      The Kits have been unstoppable in 2018. They’ve gone 9-2 in the last two months, splitting their season series with ninth ranked New Trier and seventh ranked Niles North, as of Feb 11.

    Against Niles North on Feb. 2, the Kits won 76-72 in overtime, behind 19 points from Ryan Bost. On Dec. 15 the Kits lost to Niles North 64-52.

     “We just played good defense,” said Niles North senior Dravon Clayborn. “We were able to out rebound them, and force a lot of turnovers.”

     The New Trier game on Jan. 12 was also an overtime victory, 50-49, capped off with a huge Lebron James esque block by Lance Jones. But they fell short to the Trevians on Feb. 16, 56-40, their first loss to New Trier in five years.

     The Kits struggled to put the ball in basket, shooting 30% and 26% from the field in their two games against New Trier.

   Lance Jones, this season, has progressed into a star. He leads the team in scoring with 16 points per game, and also leads in total assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals.

   “Lance Jones has, to me, shown the most growth,” said Livatino. “He’s got great vision, and gets everyone involved. He’s a complete player.”

    As the Kits head towards the playoffs, where they are almost sure to see at least one of these other teams, they will look to continue to ride this wave of wins into what they hope will be at least another Super Sectional appearance, and possibly further.