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

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

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Boys basketball departs in first round after being stunned by Maine South

Maine South sends Evanston packing in the regional semifinals for the first time in 14 years

When Evanston head coach Mike Ellis walked out of the locker room post-game on Wednesday night, he was simply at a loss for words.

“I don’t know what to say. That’s how bad it was,” Ellis stated.

Evanston was outplayed from the very first possession to the last by Maine South and was stunned in the first round of the IHSA Class 4A playoffs on Wednesday night at Glenbrook South. The Hawks, seeded No. 10 in the sectional, went wire-to-wire and never looked back in a shocking 49-32 win over the No. 6 seeded Kits.

It’s hard to beat the same team three times in a season, but when that same team goes 1-9 in conference play, Evanston fans in the Titan Dome could not help but wonder what they had just witnessed. The first-round exit was the first time since 2010-2011 that the Kits had been eliminated that early.

“You have to give credit to Maine South. They came out and took it straight to us from the tip. … Our defense didn’t get on the bus tonight,” Ellis said.

Maine South shot 17-of-29 (59 percent) on the night and added four triples, all of which came in the first half. After the first two quarters, the Hawks had missed two shots and were shooting 87 percent from the field. Comparatively, Evanston finished the night shooting 27 percent from the field and an ice-cold 1-of-13 (seven percent) from downtown.

“We played soft tonight. [Maine South] were the aggressors,” Ellis said.

The Hawks won the opening tip and sophomore star Panayiotis Sotos proceeded to hit a three on the first possession. On their next offensive play, Maine South’s Ethan De La Navarre chipped in a layup on a cutting drive. And just one possession later, Sotos drove to the basket untouched for two. Ellis called timeout less than two minutes into the game, down 7-0. At the end of the quarter, Evanston faced an 11-point deficit.

The offense began to pick up for the Kits in the second quarter, as senior Brandon Watson dropped six points off a couple of pullup jumpers and a layup. But on defense, the Kits were unable to generate pressure and urgency, a trend that persisted throughout the rest of the game. The Kits countered with 15 points in the quarter, but Maine South ended up pushing their lead to 36-23 at the break due to open looks every time the Hawks touched the ball on offense. Sotos had 12 points at the half and his teammate Jack Sladky chipped in 11 off of three deep balls.

“We just didn’t have any sense of urgency about us tonight,” Ellis emphasized. “If you’re just on the floor to play instead of on the floor to win, that’s what it looks like.”

The closest that Evanston came to within Maine South was when the Kits opened the second half by scoring four unanswered points. At that point, Evanston trailed, 36-27, with over four minutes left in the quarter.

Evanston scored two field goals in the final 12 minutes of the game.

The final quarter was a disastrous collapse for the Kits, who turned the ball over five times in the final eight minutes while missing eight layups at the rim. Maine South struggled to score in the second half but took huge chunks of time off the clock on long, stalling possessions that ticked the clock down with every pass. The nail in the coffin for the Kits was Sotos’ and-1 layup after a minute-long possession with two minutes left in the game.

Sotos, Sladky and De La Navarre accounted for 45 of Maine South’s 49 total points. Watson led the Kits with a team-high nine points.

“Maine South didn’t just have one guy step up. Their whole team stepped up,” Ellis said. “You can tell they’ve got a good community over there. Park Ridge can be proud of Maine South tonight.”

“If you look at the totality of the season, inconsistency has been one of our biggest nemesis. We haven’t played consistently both as individual players but as a team as well,” Ellis stated. “Our defense is probably the most consistent part of our game, but tonight that was not the case.”

Maine South will take on Glenbrook South in the regional finals in Glenview on Friday night.

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About the Contributors
Owen Chiss
Owen Chiss, Digital Sports Editor
Will Klearman
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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