Every time it looked like Loyola was poised to make a big run, Evanston countered.
Big shot, after big shot, fell for Evanston, and in the end Loyola just didn’t have quite enough firepower to keep up with the Wildkits, who with their 56-42 win, captured their third straight sectional title.
With Lance Jones and Blake Peters held in check for most of the night, it was sophomore Jaylin Gibson who stepped up for Evanston leading the way with 20 points and six rebounds.
Gibson started the night with two deep threes and didn’t slow down in the slightest, showing that Evanston has the ability to score from all positions, and not just from “The Big Three” of Jones, Peters and Jaheim Holden.
“He’s not only a sophomore he’s a junior,” said Evanston head coach Mike Ellis. “Louis played big too, he’s a junior, Lance is a college point guard. They played seven post season games last year, this is our fourth this year. They’re into their junior year and freshman in college with experience.”
Complimenting Gibson was the aforementioned Holden (13 points) and sophomore Louis Lesmond.
When Loyola was making a run early in the second quarter, Lesmond calmly drained two three pointers on back to back possessions to give Evanston some breathing room once again.
Despite being outsized at nearly every position, Evanston actually outrebounded the margin largely due to Jones’ athleticism.
Though the three year starter didn’t have his best game offensively, he stepped up in other ways for the Wildkits, including on the glass and on the defensive end.
Ellis said: “Rebounding was big for us tonight. I don’t know what the final numbers were but I think we at least competed on the boards.”
When the game was all said and done, Evanston partook in a very muted celebration. While the win was satisfying, expectations were high for the Wildkits this year and despite the pressure of those lofty expectations, Evanston never seemed to waiver.
“I wish I was as clam as them, they never get too high or too low,” said Ellis. “That’s what I love about those guys. As much as our coaches, coach them hard these guys never get down on themselves, they never celebrate the minor accomplishments. They understand the big picture.”
Evanston will make their return to the Sears Center for a super-sectional game against Stevenson. The Patriots claimed their first sectional title since Jalen Brunson graduated in 2015, and will look to fair better than their conference mates Lake Zurich did last year.
The game is scheduled for Tuesday at 8:00, but times could potentially change since the 4A super-sectional is now the only game on the docket.