Evanston (20-1) vs. Sussex-Hamilton, WI (11-1) 6:30 p.m. tip-off.
How are the Kits looking?
The Kits are rolling after an 81-79 win over fifth ranked Bloom last Saturday. The victory improved Evanston’s record to 20-1 and was the second top 10 team ETHS has defeated.
“I think our guys have done a solid job of answering the challenges that are on our schedule,” coach Michael Ellis said.
Despite playing one of the best games of the season on Saturday, just one day earlier, the Kits narrowly defeated New Trier in a game where they looked average at best.
“Our guys have found ways to win games even on nights we weren’t at our best,” Ellis explained. “The thing that’s most pleasing to me is that they love one another; you can tell that it’s genuine. They’re tough, they fight, they enjoy the battle of competing.”
Games like the one against New Trier have been uncommon for the Kits, but still something to be concerned about. However, that’s a part of basketball. From a broader lense, it’s clear that Evanston is legit.
How does Hamilton look?
There’s no such thing as a one man team— after all, basketball is a five-man sport. However, the Hamilton Chargers are as close as it gets with Patrick Baldwin Jr., a Haven graduate who is ranked as the third best recruit in the country amongst juniors, carrying the team.
“When I played with Patrick at Haven, I always knew he’d be special because I knew he had potential. However, nobody ever expected him to be a top recruit in the nation,” Baldwin’s former teammate, Evanston junior Isaiah Holden said.
Baldwin is a gamechanger and a large reason why Hamilton is 11-1 and ranked first in Wisconsin. He is a 6’9” point-forward who can run a team’s offense, and possesses the ability to score from all three levels. It is almost unheard of for a player of his size to have the point-guard skill set in the body of a big man on top of his smooth shooting stroke.
What does the game have in store?
There are plenty of reasons why this game will be a special one; not only are the Kits playing at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena, but Baldwin is making his return on the court where his dad played and coached at, and where his mom played volleyball.
Finding a way to stop Patrick Baldwin will be the first priority for the Kits, and the most obvious one.
“He’s definitely going to be the focal point of our scouting reporting. It’s going to be a challenge, especially with those guys knowing Patrick growing up in Evanston, having played in our feeder program. Patrick is very familiar with our players, and ours
are familiar with him,” Ellis said. “It’s going to be hard for us to try and get experience against that, or a gameplan against that. He’s so good. He’s going to find the holes, and try to pick you apart.”
Executing a gameplan to stop Baldwin won’t be easy, but the Kits should have confidence in themselves.
In the past two seasons, Evanston has made it downstate despite being very undersized, in large part due to their stellar defense.
While credit must be given to the players, it also should be given to Ellis, who is able to turn five-guard lineups into top defensive teams in Illinois.
In addition to impeccable defense, ETHS must be on their A-game offensively. The difference between Evanston’s best and worst basketball is gigantic. If the Kits are playing their best, fans will be in for a treat— if not, the Kits still have a chance, but it won’t be pretty.
“Going against Hamilton, we just have got to come in with the same mindset we did against Bloom. If we just play together like we did against Bloom, I feel like we have a great chance at winning,” Holden explained. “A lot of games that we play are going to be tough, but as long as we just stick together and play with poise, we can win any game.”