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Spartans’ senior guards help GBN stifle boys basketball

Kits show lack of experience in conference loss to undefeated Glenbrook North
Evanston+led+for+just+the+first+minute+of+the+conference+matchup+against+Glenbrook+North+on+Friday+at+Beardsley+Gym.
Will Klearman
Evanston led for just the first minute of the conference matchup against Glenbrook North on Friday at Beardsley Gym.

Evanston head coach Mike Ellis could tell early on Friday night that his young squad wasn’t in the right headspace for its conference matchup against Glenbrook North.

In the first quarter, senior Spartan guard Sam Lappin drove to the rim, missed a pull-up jumper, collected his miss, missed again and still pulled down his rebound yet again. Then, Lappin drove closer to the basket this time, missed yet another layup and, once again, corraled his miss for his third offensive rebound of that possession. Lappin finally kicked it out to teammate senior Josh Fridman who drove to the rim and scored. After that sequence, Ellis had seen enough.

“I had to call a timeout. That’s right when I knew our guys weren’t ready to play tonight. They came out, on an agenda looking to get a road win in the conference. We weren’t as focused and locked in as they were, and it showed in the results,” explained Ellis.

The final result was Evanston falling to GBN, 49-31, in a game that the Kits only lead was 2-0 just a minute into the game. The Spartans (8-0, 2-0 CSL) controlled the game on both sides of the ball all night, breaking a four-game win streak for Evanston’s young team.

After the first quarter, Evanston (6-2, 1-1) only trailed by four but struggled to create any open shots. GBN’s defense kept the Kits guards from penetrating the paint. Without a true big man for Evanston, the Kits couldn’t get anything going down low against GBN center Patrick Schaller. Schaller is 6-foot-6, 240 pounds and committed to play football at Northwestern University.

Evanston’s offense was one-dimensional early, almost entirely feeding off of junior guard Theo Rocca, who finished the game with 14 points, shooting 50 percent from the field.

“I got to use my shot to help other teammates. If the defense is attracted to me, that will give my teammates more shots and opportunities. We have to have better off-ball movement to create good shots,” said Rocca.

Early in the second quarter, Glenbrook North’s game plan became apparent. The Spartan guards—Lappin and fellow seniors Josh Fridman and Owen Giannoulias—began to impose their will, penetrating the paint possession after possession. The three were effectively finishing down low as well as also kicking it out and finding open shooters.

“[GBN is] so tough to cover,” Ellis said. “Their three guards are all really tough. Lappin is solid; he’s really good in his mid-range game. [Those three guards] just controlled the game all day long from start to finish. They shared it well and took better care of the basketball than us,” said Ellis.

Despite Glenbrook controlling the tempo and play of the game, the Spartans only led 17-11 at the break. Both teams were shooting at only a 30-percent clip going into the break.

During the second half, the offensive production increased from both sides. Evanston began to get senior guard Brandon Watson involved, who played his way to ten points.

Still, GBN’s guards continued to thrive, each finding their way to double digits. The Spartans also got Schaller involved, as he went to work inside leading to his 14 points, going 6-of-7 on the night. Without a big man, the Kits were forced to put 6-foot-4 freshman Vito Rocca, the younger brother of Theo, on Schaller for the majority of the half.

“We talked about how we can’t let [Schaller] get the ball in the post. He’s way too big, way too physical. He is going to get his way if that happens. And if he does get there, we have to trap him, and we didn’t do that well tonight,” said the older Rocca.

In addition to their defensive struggles, the Kits struggled to maintain possession, committing 19 turnovers on the night.

“[The Spartans] got up and pressed us into mistakes,” Theo said. “We have to be stronger with the basketball. We have seniors that we believe in, and tonight, they probably all would agree that they didn’t play their best games.”

By the end of the night, Glenbrook North increased its shooting efficiency by getting up to 50 percent from the field. While Evanston’s shot ended the night at 41 percent as a squad, that shooting discrepancy between the teams on top of the Kits’ turnovers led to a large victory for the Spartans.

The Kits will look to rebound today at non-conference opponent Marian Catholic (5-2).

“We have to put this game behind us. We’ll see them later in the season on the road,” said Theo. “We have to just focus on Marian Catholic.”

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About the Contributor
Will Klearman, Opinion Columnist
Hey everyone! I’m Will Klearman (he/him) and this year I am an opinion columnist as well as a sports writer. I am a sophomore and this is my second year on staff. Being on The Evanstonian is great because it allows me to get an inside look on the sports at ETHS. I also love getting my opinion out there. Outside of The Evanstonian, I enjoy hanging out with friends, playing tennis and watching sports!
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