Defense carries Maine South past Evanston

Maine South coach Tony Lavorato sees some similarities between his team and the Evanston Wildkits this year.

"They're a lot like us," said Lavorato. "They have senior players but they don't have a lot of experience, and we have senior players who don't have a lot of experience.

"We graduated our top eight and they graduated their top seven, but to talk about my team, our guys took the first half of the year to kind of learn how to play."

And Friday night against visiting Evanston, Maine South played possibly its most complete game of the season.

The Hawks, with a relentless defensive effort, won 54-37 in a Central Suburban South boys basketball matchup in Park Ridge.

It looked like it was Maine South's night right from the opening tip, as a Hawks steal then a layup from Nick Rentas helped boost the home team to a 15-10 lead after one quarter.

Then the Hawks went on a nice run in the second quarter and after a turnaround bucket in the paint by Julian Triffo then a 3-pointer from Rentas, Maine South led 25-13.

At that point the Hawks' (8-3, 1-2) defense really kicked into high gear, in an almost 2-minute possession by Evanston where the Wildkits couldn't get off a shot.

"We've got to learn to able to win and finish for 32 minutes," said Lavorato, "and tonight, defensively, I thought this was about as close to a 32 minute game that we've played."

The high-energy, ferocious full-court press by Evanston midway through the third quarter led to a 7-0 Wildkits run, but a strong sequence from long range prior to that by the Hawks had extended the lead.

First, junior guard Kaden Karstens banked in a long 3-pointer from way beyond the top of the key, then Rentas followed that up with 2 consecutive 3s.

The Hawks went in to the final period up by 17, thanks in large part to the overall play of Rentas, a 6-foot-4 senior.

"Nick did a really nice job for us, and he set the tone," said Lavorato. "He's long, he can play defense, he plays great on the offensive end, and just relieves a lot of the pressure for us with his instincts.

"He's even-keel, and Nick is a nice, calming influence for us."

Maine South opened the fourth quarter with a steal by Ryne Sterling, who made a quick feed to Rentas, who sent a nice pass through to Karstens on a fast break.

Karstens sank the ensuing layup in traffic, and Maine South went on from there to the win as Evanston, despite a strong second-half effort, couldn't get closer than 16 points.

Rentas finished with 19 points, while teammate Triffo added 12 points and 8 rebounds. Karstens scored 10 points, and was strong on the glass as well with 6 boards.

"Evanston is Evanston, and they're a well-coached team," said Lavorato. "Our guys have got to shore up some things offensively, but I was really pleased tonight with the way we rebounded the ball, and with our ability to move the ball."

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