Aside from a brief blip a few years ago when the Adekoya brothers were starring for Andrew, the Thunderbolts have been a complete afterthought on the high school basketball scene.
That is starting to change, thanks to a group of seniors that have been playing together and plotting an Andrew rise to prominence since fourth grade. Tuesday in Tinley Park they led the Thunderbolts to a 77-69 win over Thornton.
“I don’t want to say that Andrew has been a laughingstock, but we haven’t been a powerhouse in our conference,” Andrew senior Troy Murphy said. “We’ve been playing with each other since we were young and this has been our goal, to try and put Andrew on the map.”
Andrew had lost 15 of its previous 16 games against Thornton.
“When that buzzer sounded and we won it was tricky,” Thunderbolts coach Dave Wilson said. “We have to act like we’ve been here before but we haven’t been here before. We don’t win conference titles, we don’t win regional titles. There are teams in our conference that sort of own us, traditionally.”
Dan Gierhahn, a 5-8 senior point guard that averages 8.8 points a game, was the key force in the win. Gierhahn was electric in the first quarter, scoring 11 points. He handled Thornton’s defensive pressure throughout the game and finished with 23 points.
“I was just feeling hyped,” Gierhahn said. “I was ready to go out and battle. This is what we have been working so hard for all season. It was a big game and I wasn’t afraid of the moment.
Gierhahn didn’t looked fazed on any possession.
“I just feel comfortable [handling the ball],” Gierhahn said. “It’s on me to get it past half court and then we roll on offense.”
Murphy scored 20 points and senior Evan Yerkes added 17 points. The Thunderbolts (13-7, 6-1 SouthWest Suburban Red) shot 23-for-24 from the free-throw line.
“It’s a great feeling to know that we are helping Andrew basketball rise,” Yerkes said. “The level of preparation that we came in with gave us confidence. You rise to the level of your preparation.”
Andrew led 32-22 at the half. Thornton (10-9, 5-2) opened the third quarter with a 15-4 run to take a 37-36 lead. The Thunderbolts, who only played six players, looked tired and it seemed like Thornton was ready to take charge of the game.
But that didn’t happen. Gierhahn drained a three-pointer to end Thornton’s run and then nailed another two minutes later. The Wildcats cut Andrew’s lead to 73-69 with 17 seconds left. A technical foul called on Thornton for interfering with the inbounds pass on the next possession essentially sealed the win for the Thunderbolts.
“[Thornton] started out slow and then they kicked in during the third quarter, they picked up the intensity,” Murphy said. “We prepared for that all week.”
Mike DeHaan, a 6-6 senior, had six points and two rebounds. His defensive presence in the post was huge for the Andrew.
“You have to give them all the credit in the world, they played a real good game,” Thornton coach Tai Streets said. “When they played at our place they were nothing like that. They have gotten better and better, hats off to them.”
Senior DeMarco Collins led the Wildcats with 17 points and Mario Brown Jr. added 12.