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Thornton’s defense dominates Rich Central

Thornton senior D’Quan Applewhite has a nice description of the Wildcats’ ferocious team defense.

“Basically it’s a like a big rubber band,” said Applewhite. “It bends and stretches and moves in sync. We are always talking to each other.”

That big rubber band absolutely dominated Rich Central Tuesday night in Harvey. Thornton beat the Olympians 75-28 and it was exactly as bad as the score indicates.

Rich Central had more turnovers, 31, than points. The Olympians went nearly 18 minutes in the game without scoring a field goal.

“It felt like we had 80 turnovers,” said Rich Central coach Theo Williams. “They just ripped our hearts out when we came into the gym.”

Rich Central (12-8) has some quality wins this season, but were without starting guards Jeremiah Jones (12 points per game) and Glen Abram (17 points per game). Both were out with ankle injuries. Prince Walker, a 6-5 junior, led the Olympians with five points and Anthony Turner had four points and eight rebounds.

“We have a big game against Bloom on Friday and I didn’t want to risk them tweaking something,” said Williams. “But I don’t know if they would even have made much of a difference. We played without heart, without toughness.”

Senior guard Leslie Wilson led Thornton (14-2) with 18 points and Keondre Woods scored 13.

“We didn’t play well at Christmas but since then we’ve started doing a little extra shooting in practice,” said Troy Jackson. “And some guys are coming around, like Woods. I just had to stay on him.”

Jackson says Wilson and Applewhite have stepped up as leaders.

“They are the guys vocally,” said Jackson. “But it’s a different scorer every night. There are a lot of guys on the team that can score, even a lot of guys that can come off the bench and shoot it.”

Senior Brian Davis scored six for the Wildcats. His defense (five blocks) set the tone early. Davis is just 6-6, but his long arms and leaping ability make him a defensive force in the post.

“We aren’t a big team,” said Davis. “So we have to protect the rim somehow. I’ve been getting two to three blocks a game.”

Despite the nice record and legendary program, Thornton hasn’t received much attention so far this season. The Wildcats face Bradley-Bourbonnais Friday and Thornwood on Tuesday. Winning those two games would open some eyes.

“This is a really big stretch of the season for us,” said Applewhite. “That’s why we couldn’t mess around with this game. We had to come out strong early and get it finished.”

Thornton is in the Eisenhower Sectional in the Class 4A state playoffs, along with St. Rita and Simeon.

“I don’t know what the (IHSA) is thinking with that, putting them down in the south suburbs,” said Jackson. “I told the kids that if we kept winning we could probably get the number three seed. They said why not the number one? So they are starting to believe.”