Thornton junior Patrick Rucker let the crowd know he was the one who hit a first-quarter-ending 3-pointer. He faced the north side of the bleachers and pulled his jersey out proudly displaying his number.
That shot proved to be the momentum changer for the Wildcats during a 73-56 SouthWest Suburban Red win over visiting Thornwood.
“Yeah that was a big shot and a mental booster,” said Thornton coach Troy Jackson, whose team led 9-8 before the 3-pointer.
The Wildcats (3-1, 1-0) put the game on ice with a 15-0 second quarter run that was sparked by seven points from junior Keondre Woods (11 points) that help build a 32-16 halftime lead over the Thunderbirds (3-2, 0-1). The Wildcats were 4-for-5 on 3-pointers in the half.
Brian Davis led four players in double figures for the Wildcats with 14 points to go with three steals. DeAndre Mahaffey added 12 points and six rebounds, while DeQuan Applewhite chipped in 11 points and five rebounds.
“In the first quarter we got all the jitters out being our first home game and in the second quarter we executed better on offense,” Evans said. “We also picked up the defense.”
Kaliph Fagan, who was one of three normal starters — Chelby Fraizer and Kenny Bates the others — who came off the bench, led the T-Birds with 17 points, six rebounds and two steals. Darrion Robinson had 12 points, eight rebounds and two steals and Je’Juan Payton added 11.
The Wildcats had a 36-23 rebounding edge and led 55-39 after three quarters. The T-Birds would get no closer than 12 points on two occasions in the third and no closer than 65-52 in the fourth.
“I believe it,” said Thornwood coach Paul Slavich on the rebounding disparity. “We had some personnel issues during the week with some of the players and I’ll leave it at that. They got up on us early and it seemed they kept going with it.”
The post-game locker room huddle for the T-Birds was lengthy with a lot of intense speeches coming from both coaches and players.
“We did a great job on Fagan,” Jackson said. “As you can see he didn’t get a three pointer off and he usually get four a five a game so that’s 15 points right there.”