Spartans 'family' runs its course at Evanston
A journey that began in grade school for some Glenbrook North boys basketball players ended last Friday at Evanston.
After splitting two regular-season games, the host Wildkits beat the Spartans 51-36 in the Class 4A Evanston regional final on Feb. 25 at Beardsley Gymnasium.
"I'm proud of all of them. They left it all on the floor like we asked them to do, and at the end of the day they had 23 wins. If I'm not mistaken I don't think we've won 20 games in 10 years," said Spartans coach Quin Hayes.
"We won our Thanksgiving tournament; we made it to the championship of the Christmas tournament. I made sure I let them know how much success they had this year, to remember that. It's important," he said.
The glum trio of seniors gamely answering questions in an Evanston hallway will remember this season and all the others they've shared since the short-pants days.
"Probably like first, second grade. It's been awhile," said guard Blake Lidskin, the memory creating a brief smile. "We started with (AAU club) Illinois Old School, second and third grade. We went to state, went to Disney World as a group of guys, all these little third-graders."
The lack of a 10th-grader, Glenbrook North sophomore point guard Josh Fridman, helped No. 5 seed Evanston push the Spartans out of rhythm.
A double-figure scorer Hayes said also was one of his team's top defenders, Fridman had dislocated a shoulder in No. 4 seed Glenbrook North's 57-56 regional semifinal win over Taft.
"No excuses," Lidskin said, but Evanston (21-9) forced Glenbrook North (23-8) to operate much of its offense 25 feet from the basket as it searched for a rare open shot.
"When your point guard is in a sling, that's a big piece that they're missing. That sophomore is really, really good," said Evanston coach Mike Ellis.
"I think that forced GBN to go to some rotations in their positions that they don't really utilize that often. So they're playing out of position to begin with, and then you just extend the pressure and play off that."
Even without Fridman, the Spartans' 11 turnovers were a manageable amount; Hayes praised guards such as senior Aaron Mueller, junior Dylan Goldin and sophomore call-up Julian Marta.
Glenbrook North started fast with one of Lidskin's quick-release 3s and senior guard Mueller's floater in the lane, yet Evanston led 10-7 after one quarter.
The Wildkits, who got 10 points and 8 rebounds off the bench from 6-5 Prince Adams, held Glenbrook North to 5 second-quarter shot attempts and a sole field goal, by 6-foot-4 senior Grant Kosla, to lead 22-11 at halftime.
Hounded first by Evanston's Isaiah Moore and then by Emery Jones, Glenbrook North junior sharpshooter Ryan Cohen scored a single free throw in the first half and finished with 10 points. Kosla, Lidskin and sophomore Patrick Schaller added 6 points apiece.
After trailing Evanston 25-11 at 5:55 of the third quarter, Glenbrook North made a push.
Schaller worked inside and Cohen swished a 3 from the right corner to keep the Spartans within 34-21 after three quarters. Glenbrook North applied a full-court press in the fourth quarter and cut the deficit to 10 on a Cohen layup with 5:17 left to play.
"We were picking up the tempo, we were pressing hard, and then we were trapping every corner, everything we could," Kosla said. "We were getting stops and we were fighting for our last game, just turned on the switch in that third and fourth quarter."
Despite a Marta 3 off a Cohen assist and Lidskin's three-point play with 2:01 left, Evanston -- which won the rebounding battle 31-17 and shot 19-of-27 from the foul line -- maintained a double-digit lead.
As Hayes sent in senior guard Dylan Mankoff one last time, Evanston ended an era for the Spartans veterans.
"I love these boys, and I'm never going to forget the memories I made with them," said senior forward Brandon Gordon.
"Obviously we didn't get what we wanted, but we built a family here and I'm glad that we were able to become that close."