Defense rests as Wildkits suffer first cage loss
Zion-Benton shocked the high school basketball world Tuesday night at Beardsley Gymnasium.
The Zee Bees --- already 7-time losers this season --- shot a blistering 73 percent from the field and gunned down previously undefeated Evanston by a 90-71 margin, snapping the Wildkits’ 18-game winning string.
The suddenly defenseless Wildkits surrendered a couple of dozen dunks after trailing just 23-22 after the first quarter, and the contest was never close after that. Zion-Benton, led by Damontae Taylor (33 points) and Amar Augillard (23 points), converted 40-of 55 field goal attempts and shot 8-of-9 from 3-point range to improve to 12-7 on the season.
Evanston, which now faces daunting matchups against rival New Trier on Friday and preseason No. 1 Chicago Heights Bloom on Saturday, fell to 18-1 with the non-conference defeat.
Elijah Bull’s 16 points and 10 from Isaiah Holden weren’t nearly enough to keep pace with the visitors. Zion-Benton’s offensive outburst marked the most points an Ellis-coached team has yielded since he took over the ETHS program, and is only the second time in his coaching career that an opponent has reached 90 points.
An ETHS team that has allowed only 48 points per game during one of the best starts to a season in school history was sent reeling, unable to cover either Taylor (16-of-18 from the floor) or Augillard (10-of-15) effectively.
Head coach Mike Ellis took the heat for not preparing the Wildkits better.
“Zion-Benton was out there dunking on us, left and right, because we were not locked in and we were not ready to play tonight,” Ellis said. “It was a combination of Zion-Benton being locked in as well as us not playing to our fundamentals. I have to do a better job of showing them what we want them to do from our scouting videos. We need to be better prepared than we were tonight. I thought we showed them exactly what Zion-Benton was going to do, and who was going to hurt us, but that didn’t carry over into the game.
“When you take the floor trying just to outscore people, you get what you deserve. I could care less about (losing) the undefeated season. It’s the way we played that concerns me. I don’t look at the wins or losses, I look at how we played.”
The Zee Bees scored their first 8 points in transition, but the Wildkits regrouped to close within 23-22 on a 3-point basket by Blake Peters just before the first quarter buzzer. The visitors, however, were just getting warmed up, pouring in 32 points in the second period alone to grab control with a 55-37 halftime advantage.
Two free throws by Jaylin Gibson (8 points, 4 steals) kept ETHS within striking distance, down 60-47 midway through the third period, before the winners responded with an 8-0 run that included a pair of rim-rattling dunks to pull away for good.