Hoffman Estates plays tough but falls to Evanston

If you're going to be eliminated from the playoffs, you might as well go out playing possibly your best game of the season.

That's what Hoffman Estates did Tuesday night at the Class 4A boys basketball regional at Maine East.

The Hawks, the 14th seed in the Elk Grove sectional, gave third-seeded Evanston all it could handle and more in the regional semifinals.

The game was nip-and-tuck all the way through, with the Wildkits pulling away late for a 58-45 victory.

"Our effort was phenomenal," said Hoffman coach Luke Yanule. "I thought our defense was outstanding. Really proud of our guys especially the way they bounced back from last night's game (a play-in win over Maine East) with just a 24 hour turnaround."

Senior guard Jevin Dobbins led the Hawks with 15 points, including 9 in the final period.

"He's worked hard for four years, he has great character and is a great kid," said Yanule of Dobbins "This was definitely his best game of the year and it's nice to see him finish this way."

Hoffman Estates played terrific on the defensive end in the first half, forcing the Wildkits into a 1-for-12 start from the 3-point line.

And on offense, the Hawks were taking care of the ball and when Levent Sertesen hit a late second quarter basket, then Vatsal Pandya had a steal and layup, Hoffman went into intermission trailing just 25-22.

"We were a little too perimeter oriented in the first half," said Evanston coach Mike Ellis. "Hoffman Estates was the aggressor, and we were settling.

"They (Hoffman) were playing hard. This time of the season players are playing for their careers, especially the seniors, because they know it could be their very last game. That's a challenge we have as a team of mostly juniors, we've got to be able to understand that."

Hoffman kept the pressure on through most of the third period, and after a couple of buckets by 6-foot-3 senior Nate Fisher, the Hawks had crept to within 1 point.

Then Evanston's defense kicked into high gear, getting four late fourth-quarter steals, and when Wildkits junior Blake Peters (game high 20 points) had a takeway and layup, Evanston had extended the lead to 11.

"We were able to flip the script in the second half," said Ellis.

After attempting 18 3s in the first half, Evanston tried (and made) only one from behind the arc in the final two quarters. Instead the Wildkits attacked the basket, and also excelled from the free-throw line, hitting 18-of-20 foul shots in the second half.

A 3-pointer from Dobbins early in the final quarter helped the Hawks draw closer, but Evanston was able to draw away for the win.

Senior Nahum Smith-Hernandez added 12 points for the Hawks.

"Obviously, we wanted the W," said Hawks senior Sertesen, "but I'm happy the way it ended, We went out on a high note."

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