After the opening jump ball on Tuesday night, Thornwood found a lid on its basket. The Thunderbirds took nearly the entire first quarter before finally putting their first points on the scoreboard.
Eventually the team got around to scoring, enough to push the nonconference game against Rich South into overtime. That led to another jump ball to start off the extra 4-minute period and a chance for redemption for Thornwood.
The eighth-ranked Thunderbirds took control early in the extra session and never looked back, emerging with a hard-fought 55-48 victory on their home court.
“We are too good to miss that many shots, so I had confidence in my guys that eventually we’d start putting the ball in the hole,” Thunderbirds coach Paul Slavich said. “We told them at halftime to just go play ball. It was that simple.”
Thornwood (18-5) didn’t score its first points until there were just 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter, but that did not lead to any panic. A strong defensive effort meant the team was down just three points going into the second, and the scoring of guards Chelby Frazier and Kaliph Fagan kept the Thunderbirds close even when Rich South would rally back. The Thunderbirds took their first lead early in the fourth quarter but then had to battle back again.
The 24th-ranked Stars (15-6) also played well on both ends of the floor, and it looked like a key defensive play by Rich South junior forward Shakur Jinad would be the difference in the game. With 10 seconds to go and the game tied at 38, Jinad picked Frazier’s pocket and took it down for the go-ahead layup.
Instead of calling a timeout, Slavich let his players respond, and Fagan came right back down with a pull-up jumper, tying the game back at 40 with six seconds left.
“I had a feeling they were going to try and take a charge, so I just pulled up and the shot went in,” Fagan said about his game-tying basket. “We stayed composed and didn’t get rattled throughout the game.”
Rich South’s Malik Robinson tried to go coast-to-coast and beat the buzzer with a game-winning layup, but Thornwood’s Kenny Bates blocked the shot to send the contest into overtime. There, Bates continued to be a force on the defensive end, while Frazier hit five key free throws to seal the win.
Coming off the bench, Bates hit two free throws in overtime for his only two points, but he added five rebounds, seven blocks and altered several other shots with his 6-10 body.
“My size is a great help for us inside,” Bates said. “Whenever I came in, I knew I had to block every shot, grab every rebound and just fight.”
Frazier scored a game-high 19 points to lead the Thunderbirds, while Fagan added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Rich South was led by Dedrick Shannon, Jr., who scored 16 points.