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

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

The Evanstonian

Poll

This poll has ended.

Do you wear socks with your Uggs?

Loading...

Sorry, there was an error loading this poll.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Goodbye Mr. Phillips
Goodbye Mr. Phillips
May 8, 2024
In The Mix: 2024
In The Mix: 2024
Just the Jakes
Just the Jakes
Izabella Paracuelles and Marin Ubersox May 8, 2024
STOP! In the name of safety
STOP! In the name of safety
Izabella Paracuelles, Feature Editor • March 15, 2024

Former Evanston star ready to shine in Final Four

A leader for Purdue during its NCAA run, Lance Jones’ time at ETHS paved the way for success
Former+Evanston+star+ready+to+shine+in+Final+Four
Drew Watson

When Lance Jones came into Evanston athletic director Chris Livatino’s office at the start of his high school senior year, Livatino posed a question to the basketball star.

“I asked him about what he thought his purpose was. He articulated that it was to serve his team with spirit and energy,” Livatino stated.

“That’s exactly what he did that year.”

Playing alongside the elite group of Jaheim Holden, Ryan Bost, Blake Peters and Jaylin Gibson, Jones and the Kits went on a historic run and fell to now-New Orleans Pelican EJ Liddell and Belleville West in the Class 4A state championship. So if anyone is built for a run in the month of March, Lance Jones is that guy.

“That [state run] was the embodiment of a lot of hard work that our kids and coaches put in. They were truly just good people and community-minded and our community really showed up in big ways for them,” Livatino said. “Looking at him [now], his energy is contagious. His spirit is contagious.”

Five years later, Jones’ dreams became a reality on Selection Sunday. After a 29-4 regular season, Purdue was given a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament. After four years of not hearing his name called with Southern Illinois, Jones, in his fifth and final year of collegiate basketball, would experience what all basketball players dream.

Purdue has struggled tremendously in March Madness in recent years, especially given the incredible success the Boilermakers have had in past regular seasons. Three years ago, No. 4 Purdue was taken down by 13th-seeded North Texas. Two years ago, second-seeded Purdue lost to No. 15 seed St. Peters in the Sweet 16. And last year, the top-seeded Boilermakers infamously lost to 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson, making it just the second time ever a one seed has lost in the Round of 64.

Purdue has proved to the nation that this year is a different story.

Round of 64 and Round of 32

Playing in Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in the Round of 64– just 68 miles away from Purdue’s Mackey Arena– Jones and Purdue embraced a lack of tournament success and went into the first round against Grambling on a mission. On March 22nd, the Boilermakers trounced the Tigers, winning 78-50 behind 30 points from Big Ten Player of the Year Zach Edey. In Jones’ first action in the Big Dance, he played 21 minutes of action while scoring six points on two threes.

Two days later, the Boilermakers took on No. 8 seed Utah State. The Aggies came off of a big first-round win over No. 9 seed TCU, where they dominated to a 88-72 victory. Utah State was led by 6’8” forward Great Osobor, the Mountain-West Player of the Year, but Purdue completely took over the game towards the end of the first half. The Boilermakers ended the game in triple digits in complete domination. Behind well-rounded scoring, Purdue won 106-67 and advanced to the Sweet 16. In 28 minutes, Jones chipped in nine points and contributed four assists.

Sweet 16

After crushing their first two opponents, the Boilermakers took on fifth-seeded Gonzaga who had been extremely impressive in their first two games. Gonzaga trounced 30-3 Mcneese State in the Round of 64 and blew out Kansas, 89-68.

In a close game for most of the contest, Purdue was able to edge out an 80-68 win over the Bulldogs. While Gonzaga hung around for all of the first half, Edey and company were too much to handle. Jones had 12 points on 10 shots and had three assists. The win brought Purdue back to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2019.

Elite 8

In a matchup to take the Midwest Region, Purdue and Tennessee (2) were in a nailbiter to earn their trip to the Final Four in Phoenix. With Purdue up 63-60 with under three minutes to play, Braden Smith found Jones alone on the wing, and the Evanston alum put in the dagger and “the biggest shot” of his career, sending Purdue to their first Final Four appearance since 1980. Edey led the Boilermakers in the game with a whopping 40 points.

Final Four Preview

Purdue will take on NC State (11) in Phoenix for a chance to play in the national championship but NC State isn’t your average Final Four team. The Wolfpack had a losing record in the ACC this season and would not have been in the tournament if it wasn’t for a prayer to force overtime back in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. NC State went on to beat Virginia and eventually beat North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament and earn an automatic bid. 

In the Tournament, the Wolfpack upset Texas Tech (6) in the first round and defeated Oakland (14) in a second-round overtime win to advance to the Sweet 16. NC State then stunned Marquette (2) to set up a matchup against Duke (4). Behind 29 points from fan favorite and NC State phenom DJ Burns Jr, the Wolfpack advanced to their first Final Four since Jim Valvano’s squad all the way back in 1983. 

This Saturday, on the nation’s biggest stage, Jones and Purdue will look to end NC State’s magical run and advance to the National Title game. Evanston head coach Mike Ellis knows that Jones is ready for the moment.

“Lance is not just successful because of his work ethic and his love for the game, but because of his personality and character,” Ellis stated. “He’s successful because of his personality and character. It’s infectious and that’s what [Purdue] loves about him.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Evanstonian
$0
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of the Evanstonian. We are planning a big trip to the Journalism Educators Association conference in Philadelphia in November 2023, and any support will go towards making that trip a reality. Contributions will appear as a charge from SNOSite. Donations are NOT tax-deductible.

More to Discover
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!
Donate to The Evanstonian
$0
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Evanstonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *