Illinois recruit Ty Rodgers and Thornton grab a statement win in overtime at Kenwood

The game had a mix of high school and club basketball importance. The final shot of the game came down to Darius Robinson, who transferred from Thornton to Kenwood this fall.

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Thornton’s Ty Rodgers (20) reacts during the game against Kenwood.

Thornton’s Ty Rodgers (20) reacts during the game against Kenwood.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Thornton has been on the outskirts of the elite teams this season. The Wildcats didn’t have many chances to prove themselves against the area’s top teams. And losing Illinois recruit Ty Rodgers to injury limited what they were able to do over the holidays.

Now, in the final days of the regular season, Thornton has proved everything. The visiting Wildcats beat Kenwood 73-71 in overtime.

“We had more heart,” Rodgers said. “That was just what we wanted to end the season. High intensity in a small gym. Our key was to stay locked in. We came out here and we did that.”

There was a furious, emotional pace from the opening tip. Thornton is coached by Tai Streets, the leader of the Meanstreets club basketball program. Kenwood coach Mike Irvin is the leader of the Mac Irvin Fire club basketball program.

So the game had a mix of high school and club basketball importance. The final shot of the game came down to Darius Robinson, who transferred from Thornton to Kenwood this fall. His last-second heave from half-court rimmed out and the visiting fans from Harvey stormed the court.

“This was pretty personal to us,” Rodgers said. With transfers and talk about the city and stuff. We came out here and solidified our spot.”

Rodgers finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists. Junior guard Vincent Rainey, who always seems to play his best in big games, led Thornton (20-5) with 28 points.

“Last year I wasn’t here because my grandmother passed away,” Rainey said. “So I have something to prove every night.”

The first quarter was spectacular, with both teams playing at their highest level. But that burned all the players out and the second quarter was a slog.

Thornton took control defensively in the third quarter. Junior Elijah Brooks spearheaded the defensive attack with three steals as the Wildcats went on a 15-3 run. They held Kenwood (22-8) to just one field goal for a 7:25 stretch.

The Broncos rallied back in the fourth quarter behind Robinson and junior guard Dai Dai Ames, eventually taking the lead on buckets by Robinson and a dunk by Nevada recruit Trey Pettigrew.

Brooks scored for Thornton to tie the game in the final seconds and Ames missed a potential game-winning three for Kenwood at the end of regulation.

Kenwood missed five free throws in overtime and fifteen in the game.

“That’s the game,” Broncos coach Mike Irvin said. “Our kids haven’t been in enough of these environments yet. We are still a young team.”

Robinson led the Broncos with 21 points and Ames and Pettigrew each scored 18.

Can Irvin and Kenwood figure it out in a week? The playoffs start next week.

“We can, we can figure it out soon,” Irvin said. “We’ve got the players to do it. In the playoffs, you only need to get hot.”

Kenwood is the top seed in the Class 4A Thornwood sectional. The Broncos will face the Hubbard vs. Reavis winner on Wednesday.

Thornton, which will now be taken seriously as a state title contender, is the No. 2 seed in the Class 3A Marian Catholic Sectional. The Wildcats will play Crete-Monee in a regional semifinal on Wednesday.

“We just showed we can play with anybody and we are getting better every game,” Streets said. “This was the ultimate test right here. We beat one of the best teams in the state in a great atmosphere.”

The game was scheduled a few days ago. Shortly before tip-off Streets remarked that Kenwood’s gym was much smaller than he anticipated. So would he make the trip again?

“I don’t know about that,” Streets said.

Rodgers seemed to enjoy the environment more than his coach. He transferred to Thornton this year from Michigan.

“Coming out here to Chicago was one of the best things I could have done,” Rodgers said. “Just being around this environment, being around loud crowds. That’s how it’s gonna be in college. So this was great for me.”

Watch the final minute of Thornton at Kenwood:

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