Battle of unbeatens: Glenbrook North aces early test against Evanston
A large crowd on a school night saw the Glenbrook North boys basketball team ace its first big test of the season.
The unbeaten Spartans dealt Evanston its first loss, 71-59, in Central Suburban League South play Thursday, Dec. 8, in Northbrook.
"We were very excited going into this game especially since they knocked us out of the playoffs last year, so there were a lot of emotions going into this game," said Spartans senior guard Ryan Cohen, who scored 9 of his 15 points on fourth-quarter free throws.
"Coach (Quin) Hayes and coach (Jim) Sullivan, they prepared us very well for this, so we were excited. We played together, and we all love each other, so the camaraderie really helps us," Cohen said.
Glenbrook North (8-0, 2-0) sent three scorers into double figures: Cohen, point guard Josh Fridman with 21 and 6-foot-6 Patrick Schaller with 16 points plus 7 rebounds.
Hayes believed it was Schaller's best game to date.
"He was playing with a chip on his shoulder. He played tough, he played physical, he played that style we've kind of been waiting for him to play," Hayes said.
"It was great to see him kind of break out tonight."
The junior forward, who recently verbally committed to a Northwestern football scholarship offer, also got a kick out of it.
"This was a statement game for us early in the season," Schaller said. "They're one of the top teams in the state, they have a lot of great players. We just wanted it more than them. We came out, we had the heart, we had the passion."
He might also have a bruise somewhere after taking an offensive charge from an Evanston player early in the game, one of Hayes' keys for success along with rebounding and turnovers.
Evanston (7-1, 1-1) lost the turnover battle 22-11. Despite senior guard Hunter Duncan doing all he could with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals, Wildkits coach Mike Ellis credited Glenbrook North's man-to-man defense for the outcome.
"To overcome those missed opportunities puts a lot of pressure on your shot-making when you're not able to shoot 22 possessions because you coughed it up," Ellis said.
After trailing 9-8 midway through the first quarter Glenbrook North went on a 10-1 run, beginning with Sam Lappin's layup to take a lead and ending with his baseline 3-pointer to go up 18-10 after one quarter.
That helped establish a pattern. The Spartans led the last 27 minutes of the game but couldn't dust the Wildkits until the last minute, mainly due to Duncan's quality play.
Evanston pushed to within 1 or 2 points several times only to see Glenbrook North build slightly larger leads after each quarter. Fridman swished a 3 as the first half ended for a 33-23 Spartans lead. Though the team traded baskets at the end of the third quarter, Glenbrook South led 48-37.
"It all came down to stops," said Fridman, who scored 14 of his points after halftime.
"We had a couple possessions where we got them and we were about to pull away and then they scored, and they just kept it close like that," he said. "But in the end we did a lot of good stuff when they were pressuring us and we just went right by them and got floaters, layups, and got to the line. That's how we were able to stay ahead and maintain the lead."
Again paced by Duncan plus a 3 by Morgan Brown, Evanston pulled within 62-57 with 1:40 left in the fourth quarter.
The Spartans responded with a pair of Cohen free throws, another by Owen Giannoulias, and Schaller scored inside off a Giannoulias assist to boost the home team's lead to a convincing 67-57 with 41 seconds left.
"It's definitely a good feeling because before this game we hadn't really had a test," Fridman said. "We'd beaten a lot of teams but none were like Evanston, a really good team. I give credit to them, but it was a very good win."