Farmby provides spark for Evanston

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Farmby provides spark for Evanston

Last December, when Evanston coach Mike Ellis was talking about the players who had helped to fashion an early 7-0 record, he didn't mention Terrell Farmby. Now Ellis has plenty to say about the 6-foot-1 senior.

Farmby quit the program at Christmas time during his junior year. He was frustrated over lack of playing time. And he didn't buy into the philosophy of his new coach, who had come from Peoria Richwoods with a reputation for being a disciplinarian. "He had lessons to learn about discipline," Ellis said about the youngster.

But Farmby apparently regretted his decision. He came back for team tryouts last fall and made the 15-man roster. He started the season on the bench but got some playing time in each game and finally broke into the starting lineup against New Trier in February. He has been a fixture ever since, averaging five points per game.

"We brought him back and gave him a fresh start," Ellis said. "He is on his second strike. We never promised anything. He knew he had to walk a tight line and he has done it. He has done all we asked. He has been a solid influence on defense, one of our more vocal leaders. We needed to reward him for pushing his teammates in practice."

Farmby scored 16 points, Josh Irving had 17 and Jordan Perrin contributed 12 as fifth-seeded Evanston upset top-seeded New Trier 65-49 in a sectional semifinal on Tuesday night at Glenbrook South in Glenview. The Wildkits (20-10) will meet Niles North in Friday night's championship game.

After starting 7-0, Evanston experienced some bumpy experiences during a rugged conference schedule. Back-to-back losses to Waukegan and Maine South in late January provided a much-needed wakeup call. The starting lineup was overhauled with two new additions. The Wildkits have won five of their last six games, including two victories over arch-rival New Trier.

Irving, a 5-foot-11 senior, has been the team's leading scorer from the outset. He was averaging 19 points per game in the early going but now is averaging 14 as other players have stepped up. Evanston's only all-conference performer, he scored 16 points in Evanston's 51-48 victory over Niles Notre Dame in the regional final.

Other starters are Farmby, 6-foot-3 senior Leonard Garron (8 ppg, 6 rpg), 5-foot-7 senior point guard Jordan Perrin (7 ppg, 3 assists) and 6-foot-6 senior Matt Munro (5 ppg, 7 rpg). Munro has come off the bench to replace 6-foot-9 senior Randy Ollie, who was injured.

"At this time of year, it doesn't matter who you beat, it's just if you get another practice the next day," Ellis said. "We don't have anyone who was nominated for All-Area or All-Anything. But beating New Trier, a team with three all-conference players while we have only one, speaks volumes for our team."

Ellis still is trying to build a program at a school that knows something about tradition. Evanston won a state title under Jack Burmaster in 1968, was second in 1984 under Herb Williams, was fourth in 2004 under Paul Pryma and third in 2008 under Bobby Locke. Last year's team, Ellis' first, started 12-2 but finished 18-10.

"At times, I felt we were turning the corner," Ellis said. "It didn't seem like we were completely focused. I was reassured that it takes time to build relationships and trust and culture. It can't be done overnight, especially when I came in and first met the players on Oct. 5."

But now Ellis has had more time to put his program in place and the players are responding. "It's like raising kids. As a parent, you're trying to mold kids and teach them and form good habits. This team is cohesive and unselfish. There is more team play than last year. This is a great opportunity for these kids to model this year for future teams," he said.

"When we were playing .500 ball in January, they still believed in each other and weren't going to settle for anything else. They have a desire to get better at practice. To me, they have all stepped up and played to their strengths, not doing what they aren't capable of doing, playing smart basketball, listening to the coaches, buying into what we say."

Who are the keys to Evanston's success? Who are the difference-makers? Who has been the leader in the Wildkits' recent surge? Who does Ellis count on in the fourth quarter?

"It depends on what day of the week you call me," Ellis said. "No one dominates. It could be a different guy every day. They key is these kids are willing to get better each and every day in the gym.

"What has made a difference is the work ethic of the kids. They haven't settled for being complacent. They don't hang their hats on one or two games. We wanted to emphasize three points in the foundation of our program--playing hard, playing smart and playing together--and that's what they are doing."

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

See the Blackhawks get off to a slow start. See the Blackhawks get outshot. See the Blackhawks lean on their goaltending. See the Blackhawks find some offense in the third period. See the Blackhawks win.

This is a story the Blackhawks have written and played out plenty this season. Despite all evidence that it should work out to the contrary, the Blackhawks continue to pull out victories. But as we're well into the second half of the season, how much longer can they win with this formula? And is this, more than anything, a testament to how much they need to acquire someone (or plural) at the deadline to bolster their forward lineup?

Entering Sunday night's game against Vancouver the Blackhawks remain second in the Western Conference, two points behind Minnesota. Not surprisingly, they enter Sunday coming off another one-goal victory, a 1-0 decision over Boston on Friday night. Friday's game was cut from the same cloth as so many other one-goal games this season (please see above for the script). 

Here's how the Blackhawks are doing in one-goal games (through 48 games played this season) and how they've done in previous seasons:

Year Record
2016-17 18-7-5
2015-16 17-7-9
2014-15 22-13-6
2013-14 17-8-15
2012-13 19-3-5 (lockout yr.)
2011-12 22-6-11
2010-11 16-13-9
2009-10 23-9-8

The Blackhawks played 41 one-goal games (half of their regular-season games) in the 2014-15 season. Thirty of their 48 games this season have been one-goal games. But again, it comes down to how you're winning those games, and the Blackhawks are winning just about all of them in the same way: deal with a slow start and come back in the third period, relying on goaltending the entire time.

Being outshot the amount of times the Blackhawks have this season remains alarming. Sure, sometimes a lot of shots don't mean a lot of quality chances. But it's still better than minimal shots, and any shot can be an opportunity for a rebound, a deflection, something. From our stats guru Chris Kamka, here's a breakdown of the Blackhawks' shots per game vs. opponents, dating back to 2008-09:

Year Shots/Gm Opp. Shots/Gm Diff.
2008-09 32.7 28.6 +4.2
2009-10 34.1 25.1 +9.1
2010-11 32.2 28.7 +3.6
2011-12 31.5 28.6 +3.0
2012-13 31.1 26.2 +4.9
2013-14 33.1 27.2 +6.0
2014-15 33.9 30.2 +3.8
2015-16 30.5 30.8 -0.3
2016-17 29.3 31.1 -1.7

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It's no surprise that the Blackhawks' differential was especially good in their Stanley Cup-winning seasons (and even 2013-14, when they went to the Western Conference Final). Those Blackhawks teams were deep, especially at forward. They weren't waiting for the perfect shooting opportunities as much as just firing. They had great four-line rotations, something they've sorely been lacking the past two seasons, which makes a difference with puck possession.

The Blackhawks will see what's available at the trade deadline. As I wrote a few days ago, there will be names out there but, considering some teams are still hoping for playoff spots, you take mentions for what they are right now. Over the next few weeks the picture will become clearer, and adding the right depth could rekindle that four-line rotation.

We've said throughout this season that the Blackhawks can't keep this up. We said it in November, and December, and now. Understand where we're coming from here; the Blackhawks can absolutely keep winning one-goal games. They've shown that in recent seasons and in the postseason, when the ability to do that is critical. But it's doubtful they can keep doing it the way they have most this season.

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

CSN's Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd preview the Blackhawks' three upcoming games in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Blackhawks have three home games before the NHL All-Star break, which takes place in Los Angeles.

The Blackhawks have dates between the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Winnipeg Jets. All three opponents are out of the playoff picture, sand Steve Konroyd is looking for the Blackhawks to step up in a certain part of their game: scoring.

See what Boyle and Konroyd had to say in the video above.