Justin Taylor sparks Thornton victory

Justin Taylor’s shooting stroke was never in question.

But heading into his senior season, the Thornton swingman wanted to show off his all-around game.

The results have been obvious, but it all starts with one thing.

“It’s being more aggressive,” Taylor said. “I took shots I wasn’t supposed to last year, forced a couple shots. Most defenders, they play me as a shooter and play me up close so I just blow past them.”

The shooting was there Tuesday at Joliet West. So was the mid-range game and the rebounding. But sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to throw down a couple old-fashioned, nasty dunks.

Taylor’s two-handed dunks on back-to-back plays in the second quarter helped spark the Wildcats as Thornton rolled to a 79-66 win at Joliet West in a SouthWest Suburban crossover.

With the Wildcats already rolling offensively to start the second, Taylor went to work. Dribbling down the lane, Justin Montgomery found Taylor on a baseline backdoor cut.

Taylor didn’t miss his opportunity with his first two-handed slam.

Following a Joliet West turnover, it was more of the same for Thornton, Montgomery again finding a trailing Taylor for another slam dunk.

“If nobody’s around me, I want to dunk it,” Taylor said with a smile. “It helped the team out a lot and really helped the momentum. It can be a game changer.”

Taylor’s two dunks capped an 11-0 run over the first and second that put Thornton up 26-15 with 5:04 left in the second. The Wildcats didn’t take their foot off the gas, outscoring West 25-12 in the second quarter to take a commanding 42-27 halftime lead.

Thornton’s biggest lead of 68-38 came in the third.

“Defense was the key that second quarter,” Taylor said. “We defended and scored on the other end.”

Taylor finished with 20 points and eight rebounds for Thornton (9-4) with Jamani Pierce (18 points, 9 rebounds), Da’Marques Turner (13 points) and D’Andre Fuller (10 points) contributing.

Elliot Fizer (13 points), Tom Carney (11 points), Allias Robert-Burnett (10 points) and Jeff Washington (6 points, 10 rebounds) paced Joliet West (5-9).

“Offensively we stopped pushing the basketball,” West coach Nick DiForti said. “Thornton kept the pedal to the floor and got their lead. You can’t go up and down on a rollercoaster with a team like Thornton.”

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