Wendell Carter spent most of the Beach Ball Classic imposing his will on opponents.
And in spots, the Pace Academy (Ga.) big man was unstoppable, hauling down rebounds and throwing down more than his share of dunks, much to the delight of those in the stands.
But it was Nojel Eastern and his Evanston Township (Ill.) teammates who stole the show, advancing to the Beach Ball Classic title game with a 57-44 win Saturday night at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
A 12-2 run in the second half allowed the Wildkits to create some distance as they built their lead to as many as 16 points.
The Purdue commit earned a double-double in the game, scoring 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting and bringing in 13 rebounds. He also had four assists.
“There is some motivation for Nojel right now,” said Evanston Township basketball coach Mike Ellis. “He’s taking on players with that publicity and notoriety, I think it’ll definitely take you to another level as well, and is a challenge you want to meet.”
Evanston Township’s next leading scorer was Elyjah Williams with eight points.
On the other hand, it was a frustrating night for Carter, with the Duke commit often being double teamed in an effort to offset his production.
For the game, he was 11-of-15 from the field for a game-high 26 points. He also had 21 rebounds, seventh-most in a game in Beach Ball Classic history.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Pace Academy lineup offered little in the way of production. Only three other players scored for the Knights, scoring 18 points total – 12 of which came courtesy of Isaiah Kelly.
“We wanted to keep Kelly and Carter under 35 combined, keeping focus on them and not letting the other guys beat us,” Ellis said. “It ended up leading to those other guys taking more shots than they usually do. … As it turned out, those two scored the bulk of their points, I think 38 of their 44. So we did a good job, especially in the second half of making things difficult for them and not giving up easy lane points.”
According to Pace Academy coach Demetrius Smith, teams focusing on Carter is nothing the Knights haven’t seen.
“That’s always,” he said. “Wendell said ‘I had a tough stretch because I was tired, but I have to do a better job.’ We know teams are going to double him, triple him, whatever. But our supporting cast has to do a better job.”
Evanston Township will next take on either Imhotep Charter (Pa.) or Dillard (Fla.) in the Beach Ball Classic championship game, set for a 7:30 tip.
“Everybody in Chicago doesn’t give Evanston props,” Eastern said. “Winning this would be something they cannot deny. Being in (the Beach Ball Classic) championship is a great feeling, but we want more.”
PACE (44): Wendell Carter 26, Isaiah Kelly 12, Myles Todd 2, Harrison Lewis 4.
EVT (57): Malcolm Townsel 7, Nojel Eastern 24, Elyjah Williams 8, Chris Hamil 4, Jaheim Holden 6, Lance Jones 6, Matt Hall 2.
Halftime: EVT 29-24. 3-pointers: PACE 0, EVT 1 (Townsel). Team fouls: PACE 11, EVT 16. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None.
Records: PACE 6-7, EVT 13-1.