By Julia Cardi
Evanston headed into its matchup against Central Suburban South rival Maine South on January 14 focused squarely on 6-foot-11 Hawks center Brad Perry.
“He’s very big, very strong; he can finish around the basket,” said Wildkits head coach Mike Ellis.
Perry scored 11 points in the first half, and his finishing power threatened to overwhelm the Wildkits. But they found their answer to Perry in the fourth quarter: send him to the bench. The powerful center eventually fouled out, giving the Wildkits the opening they needed in a 58-53 victory at Evanston.
A pair of key rebounds from senior forward Dylan Mulvihill handed Perry, who went scoreless in the second half, his fourth and fifth fouls.
“The last two years, Dylan’s been the most steady player. He’s played with intelligence…he never makes mistakes…He stabilizes us,” Ellis said. “I thought when Perry went out of the game, and they pressed a little bit for quicker shots, I think that helped our defense.”
Mulvihill said staying mentally strong was key to stopping the Hawks. “I’ve played against them for so long; we know that they’re not going to make many mental mistakes, so we have to combat that with playing smart,” he explained.
Mulvihill anchored the Wildkits with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guards Nojel Eastern and Chris Hamil rounded out the Wildkits’ offensive bid with 17 and 10 points, respectively.
“Our best aspect was moving the ball, keeping everybody involved,” said Hamil after the game. “They had a bigger player than us, so it was important to grab rebounds.”
Hamil provided balance in stopping the Hawks. “He’s a shooter, he can score for us, and he’s got some size, defensively, so Chris can impact the game on both ends of the floor,” said Ellis.
Even though the Wildkits shut down Perry in the second half, the Hawks took Evanston on a 20-11 run in the third quarter. Ellis wasn’t pleased and saw defense as the biggest opportunity for improvement.
“When they were in the flow early in the fourth and late third, I thought our defense was suspect,” he said. “We’re going to have to make sure we play a little more consistently for all four quarters.”
The win gave the Wildkits a two-game lead over the Hawks in conference play, improving their record to 5-0. The Hawks stand at 3-2.
“In our league, every win counts,” Ellis said. “Anybody can beat anybody on any given night…I think we learned that tonight in the second half.”