There was a special buzz at TF North on Saturday night. A big crowd was on hand in Calumet City to see No. 15 Curie and No. 18 Thornton.
The game opened with an alley-oop dunk by Thornton and a three-pointer from Curie’s Elijah Joiner. The Condors made their first six shots of the game and never really cooled down, cruising to a 69-55 win.
For Curie, the defending Class 4A state champions and preseason No. 1 team, it was the cap on a tremendous week. The Condor dominated No. 3 Kenwood earlier in the week.
“When you are the No. 1 team in the state it puts a lot of pressure on you,” Joiner said. “When we got that loss out of the way early it was a good thing for us. That just opened our eyes and showed us we can lose. We’ve been playing great ever since.”
Joiner has taken his game to another level since the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. He led the Condors (15-2) with 21 points.
“My teammates and coaches told me I need to be more aggressive and get to the basket more,” Joiner said. “I haven’t been shooting it well the past few weeks so I’ve been trying to get my teammates involved and get to the rim.”
Allante Pickens was also terrific. He finished with 18 points. Pickens was 5-for-8 from three-point range. Terry Smith Jr. added 14 points and six rebounds for Curie.
A solid amount of the crowd was there to get a look at Thornton’s Alonzo Verge. The senior point guard had several sensational passes, but his teammates had difficulty finishing. Verge scored 13 points. Junior Orlando Allen led the Wildcats (11-4) with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
“Verge is a good friend of mine,” Joiner said. “We wanted to come out and be aggressive on him. He did a good job, he led his team.”
While Curie clearly looks like a team capable of winning the state title, Thornton is a work in progress. Wildcats coach Tai Streets basically has a brand-new team. The pieces are there. Thornton didn’t give up at any point, the Wildcats forced Curie into 19 turnovers. It’s not hard to imagine Thornton growing into a sectional title contender by March. They
The Wildcat have another challenge Sunday night, they host Marian Catholic.