Boys basketball knocks off highly-ranked New Trier, prepares for IHSA playoffs

The clock ran out and so did the ETHS student section. Celebrating a historic win over a top-five opponent, ETHS students stormed the court. The night of Feb. 4, the Kits shocked the state by upsetting the No. 4 Trevians, 62-55, at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena. The matchup marked the first time the two teams had played there since 2012. 

Despite the big win, the weeks before that were tough for the Kits. Evanston dropped two straight games, the first to Glenbrook North and the second to Lake Forest in the War on the Shore shootout at Loyola Academy. In fact, the Kits were sitting at 14-8 overall and 2-4 in conference play. With only four games remaining on the schedule, something had to change quickly. 

Playing in front of the home crowd at Beardsley on senior night, Feb. 1, E-Town responded with a dominant 69-29 win against Maine South. And as serendipity would have it, it was two seniors who ended up being instrumental to that victory: David Gieser contributed a season-high 19 points and classmate Rashawn Bost 13.

Head coach Mike Ellis went on to praise Gieser, who transferred from Fenwick before the start of this season.

“He’s always been a leader on our team,” Ellis says. “He leads by example and is a vocal leader. He’s just been great and it was fantastic to see that type of performance on senior night.”

Additionally, Ellis was pleased with his team generally, and particularly how they were able to bounce back.

“We completely flipped the script. We were the ones that were able to create some open opportunities and score in transition, where some of our shooters could get loose early in the possession as well. And we knocked in shots,” says Ellis.

But as always, the team had its sights set on New Trier, and Ellis said that he wanted to use the momentum from senior night against the highly-ranked Trevians.

“We’ve had some great battles with New Trier the last eight, ten years. The players might change, but the philosophy remains the same where they’re going to try to use their height as an advantage. And we’re going to try to use our pressure as our advantage, and the more we can stretch this game out into a full court and not half court game, the better the percentages are for us.

The Kits did exactly that, as they beat the odds and upset the rival Trevians, in front of a 3,000-plus crowd at Welsh-Ryan Arena. With this victory against New Trier, Evanston extended its record to 17-2 in the past 19 games against the program. The difference this year? New Trier was 24-2 overall and 6-1 in the conference. In fact, its only losses had come to two top-10 teams, Chicago powerhouse Simeon, and fellow CSL member Glenbrook South.

Evanston jumped out to a strong 22-5 lead into the first quarter but struggled mightily the rest of the half, allowing New Trier to score 23 unanswered points and take a 28-22 lead going into the second half. But unfortunately for New Trier, the Kits came back together and were up 43-42 by the end of the third. A three-pointer by freshman Yaris Irby, and two huge buckets by junior Prince Adams gave the Wildkits a one point edge heading into the final eight minutes of the game. From there, it was all Kits the rest of the way, leading to the aforementioned 62-55 finish. 

Evanston and New Trier were originally supposed to play at the Trevians gym on Dec. 16, before COVID-19 issues rescheduled the game to Feb. 7, just three days after the game at Northwestern. The Feb. 7 game was closely contested the entire first half, with New Trier only up by four, taking a 27-23 lead at halftime. The wheels slowly started to halt for the visitors, and the Trevians went on an 18-4 run in the third frame to secure a 45-27 lead going into the final quarter. It wasn’t long after that before they eventually took the game, 55-38.

The next game on the schedule was Niles West, where ETHS made 17 three pointers, tying the program’s single-game record, and had a whopping 26 team assists, en route to a 79-43 win. David Gieser had 25 points, 19 of them which came in the third quarter, and Aidan Maher dropped 20. The Kits also beat Highland Park on Feb. 15, 58-43, to close out the regular season 19-9 overall and 5-5 in CSL conference play.

The Kits already have the number five seed in the IHSA Class 4A Glenbrook South sectional locked down, and even their own regional site to start the playoffs. By the time of this publishing, the Kits will have taken on Schaumburg on Feb. 23 in Beardsley Gym, and the winner will face off against the winner of Glenbrook North vs. Taft on Feb. 25. 

Coach Ellis is ready for the test.

“The path is there for any team in the state to try to make a run. The challenge for us is that we’re in a sectional that is going to be difficult with the talent of teams in it, but we’re excited to host the regional and hopefully advance further in the section.”