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The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian


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Boys basketball upsets top-ranked New Trier in thriller

Evanston found victory in low-scoring contest where each team shot just over 30 percent from field

WINNETKA, ILL. – In a 35-35 game with 16 seconds remaining in Friday night’s contest against New Trier, junior Ian Peters stepped up to the free throw line for two shots. Evanston fans behind the hoop were silent, holding their hands in the air to calm their free-throw shooter. The New Trier student section on the opposite end of the court behind Peters yelled at the top of their lungs in desperation.

Peters calmly went up to the charity stripe, took a deep breath and drained both foul shots to give Evanston a two-point lead.

But the game wasn’t over.

On the ensuing possession, the Trevians ran down the court and New Trier senior William Leemaster threw a cross-court pass over Peters and junior Theo Rocca to a wide-open Logan Feller beyond the arc, who had one chance to win the ballgame with four seconds left.

Every spectator in Winnetka held their breath.

“I was a little scared. We were in scramble mode,” Rocca said.

Feller’s shot clanked off the back of the rim but fell to New Trier’s Ian Brown, who batted the ball backward to sophomore Christopher Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick threw up a contested three that sailed wide left of the rim as the buzzer sounded. Evanston students promptly stormed the visiting court in a moment that could only be described as pure pandemonium.

After 728 days passed without beating New Trier, the Kits stunned the 17th-best team in the state in a low-scoring, gritty, 37-35 win inside New Trier’s newly built gymnasium. Evanston improved to 19-9 (5-4 CSL), while New Trier fell to (22-6, 6-2 CSL).

“I’m happy for this team to be able to say we won the first ever New Trier-Evanston game in this gym,” Evanston head coach Mike Ellis said. “I thought our guys were way more opportunistic tonight. We took care of the basketball, made good decisions, and banged on the boards.”

Evanston outrebounded the Trevians by 12 on Friday night, with a +9 advantage in the offensive rebound category as well. When New Trier beat the Kits, 50-37, in Evanston earlier this season, the Trevians led that column by 9. Evanston also limited Kirkpatrick to just 8 points on 2-of-7 shooting, which was a key difference from Kirkpatrick’s dominant 15-point performance when the two teams met back in December.

 “All of our guards switched on [Kirkpatrick] and guarded him,” Rocca said. “We took that game personally. We weren’t going to let that happen again.”

Evanston jumped out to another slow start in the first quarter, shooting the ball just 18 percent in the first eight minutes compared to New Trier’s 55 percent. Rocca missed a couple of early shots and the Kits had trouble penetrating the lane. New Trier’s Ian Brown and Danny Houlihan cashed in on deep threes and propelled the Trevians to a 12-6 lead going into the second quarter.

But at the start of the second, Evanston’s forwards set the tone for the rest of the night. Senior Morgan Brown hit a turnaround hook, which was followed by senior Antoine Thomas’s bucket inside. Kirkpatrick hit a three to put New Trier up 15-10, but that was quickly answered by a three from Rocca. The Kits played tough defense in the remainder of the frame, with Kirkpatrick’s three being the only field goal Evanston gave up the entire quarter. The Kits cut the deficit to just 19-17 at the half. 

“Our focal point has been our defense and our defense is what gets us wins. That’s what we were focusing on,” Rocca stated. “Shots weren’t falling? Just get a stop.”

The Kits came out of the half strong. Two inside buckets by Rocca and a free throw by senior Jonny Dickson tied the game up at 22. Later in the quarter, a huge sequence for Evanston changed the visitors’ momentum for the rest of the game. Thomas was at the line shooting two and the Kits trailed 25-24. The senior forward made the first shot and missed the second, but Rocca rebounded the miss and kicked the ball out to Peters, who drilled home his first shot of the night to put the Kits up 28-25 heading into the fourth quarter. 

“Ian came in and hit that huge three to give us that lead,” Ellis said. “He was phenomenal tonight for us.”

Kirkpatrick opened the fourth quarter by finishing an and-1 layup to tie the game at 28. Just seconds later, senior point guard Brandon Watson checked out of the game after picking up a damaging fourth foul with 6:30 left in the game.

After a back and fourth quarter with big buckets, Evanston found themselves down 35-34 before Peters went 1 for 2 to tie the game up with one minute to play. Without a shot clock in play, it looked as if New Trier would be able to hold the ball for the last shot. The Trevians ran a set and senior Colby Smith looked to dish the ball into the post, but Rocca read the play perfectly and intercepted the pass with ease.

“That [steal] was huge. We went over that New Trier play in practice over and over again,” Rocca stated. “All I was doing was helping Morgan’s man and I was in the right spot at the right time.”

The Kits took the ball down to the other end of the floor where they planned to hold for the final shot before New Trier fouled Peters, who made the game-winning free throws.

“[Ian deserved to make those,” Ellis emphasized.  “There are one or two guys on our team who get to school at 6 a.m. and spend an hour and a half in the gym before their first class of the day. Ian’s in the gym more than anyone else. He deserved to make those.”

Feller, who was 4-of-6 on the night from the field, missed his easiest opportunity of the night, sealing the upset victory for the Kits. 

Rocca finished the game with 12 points for Evanston while chipping in 8 rebounds. Feller and Smith each dropped 9 points for the Trevians.

Evanston will ride their four-game win streak into next Friday night against Glenbrook South in the Titan Dome.

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