Thornton was so close to the McDipper title last year, the Wildcats could taste it.
But former Marian Catholic star and current Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis was simply too much down the stretch in the 2013 final.
In the quarterfinals Saturday at Rich South, No. 15 Thornton came out like a team with revenge on its mind.
The Wildcats (8-1) pressured Marian Catholic from the opening tip, forcing 19 turnovers in a 62-53 victory.
The Spartans never could get any traction, turning the ball over seven times on their first nine possessions.
“We knew their guards were young and we wanted to trap them and rotate and force quick baskets,” said Leslie Wilson, who finished with a game-high 16 points.
To make matters worse for the Spartans (5-7), who never led, the Wildcats also controlled the glass. Thornton finished with 26 rebounds, 12 of which were pulled down by 6-4 senior forward Robert McCalley (nine points).
“If I don’t rebound, my team won’t rebound,” McCalley said. “I have to set the tone with rebounding. If I’m doing it, the other guys will follow.”
Thornton forced 15 turnovers in the first half and led 28-20 after the first two periods.
The closest the Spartans would get was 30-25 after Myles Howard (six points) hit a jumper from the free-throw line with 5:56 left in the third quarter.
For Wilson and McCalley, the ultimate satisfaction comes with the payback.
“We’ve been wanting to play this game since we lost to them last year,” McCalley said.
Wilson said the revenge factor goes beyond Marian Catholic.
“We wanted revenge tonight, but we want it against all the teams that beat us last year.”
Brian Davis finished with 14 points for Thornton. Patrick Rucker added seven. Warren Allen led Marian Catholic with nine points. Javaughn Young-White chipped in seven.
Thornton will play the winner of Rich South and Tinley Park on Monday.