GLEN ELLYN – Evan Taylor seems to pick his spots, never forcing the issue.
His value is evident at Glenbard West.
Taylor, a 6-foot-6 Southern Illinois recruit, controls the baseline defensively, frequently handles the ball on the perimeter, and almost never leaves the floor.
He sure picked an ideal time to assert himself Dec. 4.
Taylor made two next-level three-point plays late in the third quarter, helping turn away a Wheaton Warrenville South comeback.
The Hilltoppers went on to a 55-45 win in Wheaton.
“He’s got to make those plays when we need them,” Glenbard West coach Tim Hoder said. “He got them tonight, and it was a crucial stretch.”
Taylor had 17 points and nine rebounds for Glenbard West (5-1), Griffin Foster 12 points and Caden Phillips seven points and 13 rebounds. Owen Struebing led WW South (4-2) with 17 points.
Taylor was having a relatively quiet evening until WW South closed what was an 11-point game at halftime to 26-25 on a Chase Keating basket.
After a Foster 3-pointer, Taylor rebounded a Corey Williams missed free throw and powered in with authority as he was fouled for a three-point play.
Next time down, Taylor shot through the WW South defense for a driving layup and second three-point play, highlighting a 14-0 Hilltoppers run to end the third quarter.
“Those are just about being aggressive,” Taylor said. “They were getting back on us. I wanted to continue to be aggressive and not give up. Getting to the rim, not settling for a three, was really big. It really refueled us.”
Indeed, and Taylor had plenty of gas left down the stretch.
He was most proud of his free-throw shooting, with good reason. Taylor was 7-for-7 from the line in the fourth quarter, 9-for-9 for the game. Glenbard West collectively was 13-for-13 in the fourth quarter, 19-for-21 for the game.
“Evan has been great for us at the line, and overall we’ve been pretty good,” Hoder said. “That is a really nice luxury to have. We don’t ever take it for granted.”
Taylor, a 70 percent or so free-throw shooter as a junior, is hitting close to 87 percent on this young season.
“I focused on that in the offseason,” Taylor said. “When I’m tired, make sure I make those when they need me.”
It derailed any WW South hopes of a comeback.
The Tigers made six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and were 10-for-27 for the game. Struebing and Joe Ives each hit three. Jeff Kratz, who scored 11 points, hit two 3-pointers.
But they struggled mightily from inside the arc.
WW South went scoreless for almost the first six minutes of the game, digging an early 9-0 hole, and didn’t score from inside the 3-point line until the third quarter.
“Proud of the kids for bouncing back, but we just struggle so much offensively,” WW South coach Mike Healy said. “I’ll say this, when we have open stuff around the basket we have to figure out a way to put the ball in the basket. We didn’t do a very good job of that tonight.”
The Tigers did make it a game by pressuring Glenbard West. The Hilltoppers turned it over 13 times between the second and third quarters.
“We were rattled, but we stuck with it,” Hoder said. “They [WW South] are so difficult to prepare for. You cannot duplicate or replicate what they do with the ball press in the half court or three-quarter court. It makes the game prep really, really difficult.”
The Hilltoppers did, though, dominate the glass – and the 6-foot-6, 215-pound Phillips was a big reason why.
“It’s just about knowing where your guy is first, and that takes care of getting the ball,” Phillips said. “Once I did that, I knew that ball was mine once it came off the rim.”