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Thornton tops Thornridge in Rocky Hill’s return

It’s been 11 years since Thornridge coach Rocky Hill last walked into the Thornton gym and coached a varsity game.

After leading the Wildcats to Class AA runner-ups in 1995 and 1996 and third place in 1997, Hill left his storied career in Harvey in 2003 and has bounced around from several other programs since.

Hill had many handshakes before the game, catching up with old friends. When it came time for time actually play basketball, the host-Wildcats weren’t so friendly, eventually taking over in the second quarter and registering a 61-33 Southwest Suburban Red win.

‘‘It’s just another game to me now and time has done that,’’ Hill said. ‘‘Always a pleasure to come back to Thornton.’’

Patrick Rucker scored a game-high 13 points, including eight in a row during an 11-0 run that led to a 33-21 halftime lead for the Wildcats (4-1, 2-0).

Rucker incited a timeout by Hill after that eighth point but he was replaced when both teams returned to the court and didn’t return until late in the third quarter.

‘‘That was just our rotation,’’ said Thornton coach Troy Jackson, who was an assistant with Hill. ‘‘[Hill] is back now where he started. He was the sophomore coach at Thornridge for a long time. I know deep down in his heart he is always a Wildcat.’’

Rucker was the only player to reach double-digit points.

Ogunseye Fuad made a 3-pointer at the start of the second half to cut the Falcons’ deficit to 33-24. But Thornridge (2-6, 0-2) was unable to get any closer. Fuad had nine points to lead Thornridge.

The Wildcats put the game out of reach with 5:32 left in the fourth on consecutive dunks by Brian Davis (eight points) that built the lead to 51-31. The Wildcats outscored the Falcons 19-4 in the final quarter.

‘‘I thought we played well for three quarters. I don’t know, it just got away from us in that fourth. We knew it would be a tough game but I still thought the kids played hard.’’

On hand was Hill’s former player Napoleon Harris (Class of ‘97), who went on to have a long NFL career with the Raiders and is now in the Illinois state senate.

‘‘Coach Hill put the Thornton program back on the map,’’ Harris said. ‘‘He’s the reason we have those three banners hanging up here and I’m sure he’ll get Thornridge back on the map too.’’