As Thornwood coach Paul Slavich succinctly put it, Rashaad Alexander “had the green light.”
And Tuesday playing at rival Thornridge, the Thunderbirds sure needed Alexander.
The senior guard helped ignite a sluggish offensive effort, scoring eight points as part of a huge spurt in the third quarter as Thornwood prevailed 55-42 over Thornridge in a SouthWest Suburban Red game.
“Coach Slavich always says to pass the ball, and the first half I tried to get everyone involved,” Alexander said. “The second half I had to come out and try harder, get my shots up.”
Kaliph Fagan finished with 14 points for Thornwood (17-4, 10-0), while Alexander and Brian Thomas added 13 points apiece for the Thunderbirds.
As for the struggles Tuesday, Slavich didn’t exactly predict them, but he wasn’t completely surprised either.
“The last couple days in practice were just flat,” Slavich said. “We’ve got to get these guys moving. We don’t get going sometimes until our backs are against the wall. We’ve got to go for four quarters, not wait and see what the opponent is all about.”
Thankfully for the Thunderbirds, Alexander caught fire in the third quarter. Thornwood trailed by as many as six points in the quarter before the senior hit a pretty running floater in the lane to cut the deficit to two.
Quiet through two-plus quarters offensively as he dished the ball rather than shot, Alexander came to life following the floater. Off a steal, Fagan found a wide-open Alexander on the wing for a swish three-pointer.
The Falcons responded, with Darrion Robinson scoring on an up-and-under as the Falcons went up 31-30.
Who else was going to answer for Thornwood? Alexander hit a three-pointer from the top of the key in transition to give the Thunderbirds the lead for good as his team ended the quarter on a 14-3 spurt.
“We had a long talk at halftime, not running our offense, playing lazy defense,” Alexander said. “We had to turn it up. I was feeling it and kept shooting it.”
Fagan helped blow the game open in the fourth, finding a cutting Kenneth Bates for a two-handed slam.
Robinson finished with a monster game for Thornridge (7-18, 3-7), scoring 21 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. Robinson scored 15 of the Falcons’ 19 second half points.
Thornridge shot just 15-of-44 from the field overall, including a 7-of-25 effort in the second half.