By: Luke Drase
12 games, 19 months.
To most, these numbers mean nothing. But that is how long it’s been since Evanston lost a game in conference play before Niles North defeated the Widkits 64-52 on Friday night in Skokie.
Despite having great success over the past eight years and being highly regarded this season, Niles North still seemed to come into the contest playing second fiddle to perennial power Evanston, who finished the previous three conference campaigns with a 28-2 record.
The moment certainly seemed to get the better of Niles North early in the game. The Vikings were sloppy, threw the ball around, and missed layups throughout the first half to put them in an early hole.
“I don’t necessarily think we came out flat, we just had some easy opportunities early that we didn’t finish,” said Niles North head coach Glenn Olson. “We’ve started so fast this year that we started pressing. We took a bunch of really bad shots there and that hurt us early.”
On the other end it was Evanston freshman Blake Peters who provided instant offense for the Wildkits. Peters scored nine first half points, including two banked three pointers to give Evanston a 18-5 lead.
Things started to turn around for Niles North midway through the second quarter starting with a defensive spark from an unusual source in Myles Davis.
Davis brought tremendous energy that Niles North was sorely lacking, and was a big reason why dynamic Evanston guard Lance Jones was held without a field goal for the first three quarters.
“Miles came in and played exactly how we want all of our guys to play,” said Olson. “He was passionate, he was all over the place and he rose to the occasion. The kid’s a great player. I really thought it was a shot of toughness and he really inspired the other guys. If we don’t check him in at that point, I don’t think we win.”
“I was just waiting my turn, and we just practiced all week on guarding them,” said Davis. “I’ve been playing against those guys all my life and I just had to go out there and provide for my team and make plays.”
After finally getting some stops, senior Damaria Franklin took over offensively to get Niles North got back into the game. The three year starter caught fire, propelling him to his best all around performance of the season with 27 points and nine rebounds.
“In the second half I was just taking what the defense was giving me,” said Franklin. “In the first half I was rushing everything, I was forcing my way into the game, but in that second half I just let the game come to me.”
Niles North would finally take a lead for the first time midway through the third quarter after a Franklin runner in the lane.
The Vikings would extend their lead to 10 points after an Omar Policape three pointer and never looked back, completing a 25 point swing for the 64-52 win.
Franklin said: “Olson told us at half time don’t hang our heads and keep pushing. He said we have 16 minutes to finish out the game and that’s what we did.”
Although Franklin received most of the praise, (and deservedly so) with his 27 point performance, Niles North received unsung contributions from junior Dailen Sudduth.
Sudduth drew four of the Vikings eight charges in the game, which helped turn the momentum in Niles North’s favor.
“That was huge. Dailen came in and was phenomenally unselfish. You don’t coach too many kids who care more about taking charges than scoring points but Dailen is one of them,” said Olson. “Those are three point plays, a turnover, a personal foul and a team foul on them so we love it.”
With the win, Niles North keeps their perfect record intact and takes an important conference win before the holiday break. Niles North will have a non-conference game against Lake Zurich next Friday before their holiday tournament at Wheeling.
Evanston, who was led by Blake Peters with 16 points and nine rebounds, will look to get back on track with a matchup against St. Joseph on Saturday.