Thornton went on the offensive, rebound that is, to advance to the Class 4A Lincoln-Way Central boys basketball Regional championship.
The Thornton sectional’s No. 3 seed grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and converted most of those into points during a 66-45 victory over No. 14 Lockport Tuesday in New Lenox.
The win puts No. 15-ranked Thornton (20-5) in Friday’s regional championship against No. 12 Lincoln-Way Central or No. 6 Homewood-Flossmoor at 7 p.m. Friday.
It was the ninth straight win for the Wildcats, who had a string of 10 straight regional championships snapped a year ago. The Wildcats played without the services of injured 6-6 senior forward Justin Taylor, whose availability Friday is unknown.
“I was nervous because our leader, Justin Taylor, sprained an ankle and wasn’t ready to play tonight,” Thornton coach Troy Jackson said. “We don’t know if he’s going to play Friday or not. But, we did what we wanted to do tonight.”
Leslie Wilson’s 19 points led a trio of Wildcats in double figures.
“We wanted to come out and get a W without out best player,” Wilson said.
Brian Davis had 15 points and nine rebounds starting for Taylor. Jamani Pierce added 14 points and nine boards and D’Quan Applewhite was credited with eight steals.
“We got some turnovers, got some fast breaks, capitalized on them and put together a good effort,” Jackson said.
Thornton led from wire-to-wire. Wilson’s steal and three-point play gave Thornton a 14-6 lead with two minutes left in the first quarter. The Wildcats settled for a 14-8 lead after one. Lockport had four baskets and five turnovers through the first eight minutes.
Wilson’s three-pointer to open the scoring in the second gave the Wildcats a 17-8 advantage. Pierce’s put back of his miss made it 19-10 with 5:45 left in the second quarter and forced a Lockport timeout.
Pierce’s jumper off a second chance gave Thornton a 23-10 lead with 3:41 left in the half.
Lockport scored next five points, the last two on John Campbell’s bucket, to cut the lead to 23-15 with 2:22 left in the second quarter. Kareem McHardy’s put back off another second chance just before the horn gave the Wildcats a 28-16 lead at the break.
“It’s one thing to give up offensive rebounds, it’s another thing for them to score on them and they did that,” Lockport coach Larry Thompson Jr. said. “And, they are a lot deeper than people give them credit for.”
Pierce’s two free throws gave the Wildcats a 34-20 lead with 5:30 left in the third.
An Applewhite three-pointer and back-to-back trey’s by Davis pushed the lead to 43-26 with 3:10 left in the third quarter. Thornton scored four points during the final five seconds to take a 48-30 lead after three quarters.
Lockport (13-15) posted back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in nearly a decade. Campbell’s 28 points led all scorers.
“We just have to continue to build off the kids we have coming back and work on our team concept,” Thompson Jr. said. “We improved individually and as a team. Individually, kids need to work on their offense and defense. Those are the things we’re going to stress.”