NEW LENOX – Early signs from Friday’s Southwest Suburban Conference Red Division matchup between the boys basketball teams from Lincoln-Way Central and Thornridge provided optimism that the host Knights could pick up a key victory over a quality opponent.
Central took a 24-23 halftime lead and only trailed, 41-38, late in the third quarter. But that’s when the Falcons’ athleticism took over as they used an 11-0 run to take control and went on to capture a 69-59 victory that was their eighth win in their past nine contests.
Nick Tingley led the way for the Knights (9-11, 2-3 SSC) with 21 points, which included five 3-pointers. Matt Maloney (12 points), Kevin Hayes (seven points) and Joan Buch
(six points) were other top scorers for Central, which has lost its past four.
“They had some different guys than we saw in films,” Knights coach Bob Curran said. “But they are quick, and Rocky [Hill] had a good game plan and did a good job since he was obviously trying to take away our 3-point shot. And they also turned us over, and that was the game right there. We had 17 or 18 turnovers, and a lot of them were live-ball turnovers where they got layups. We’re not going to win many games giving up 69 points.
Some of it was our defense, but [Thornridge] also shot well in the second half.”
Thornridge (9-5, 3-2) had six players who collected eight or more points. It was led by Brian Smith (16 points), Grant Hall (15 points), Justin Clark (10 points), Darrell Thomas (10 points), Jaquan Butler (eight points) and Elijah Harris (eight points).
The Falcons have utilized several different lineups this season, which has resulted in most of their defeats. But if they can perform like they did on Friday, coach Rocky Hill’s squad can record consecutive winning seasons for the first time since Hall of Fame coach Mike Flaherty concluded his long run of success with the program in 2006.
“We knew that this was a big game,” Hill said. “Any time that you play a Bobby Curran-coached team, it’s going to be a tough ball game, and we knew that coming over here. I thought that our kids really responded, and we picked up our energy in the second half on defense, and we made shots in the second half. We got very balanced scoring, and our guys are unselfish. I thought they played smart, for the most part, and it was a big win for us.”
The Knights used a 6-0 run that carried over from the opening quarter to the second to claim an early 19-14 lead. Tingley made a layup, and Buch followed with two more to give the hosts their biggest advantage of the game.
After Thornridge responded with a 7-0 burst of its own that started and finished on layups from Hall, Central answered with another 6-0 run, with Kraft getting a jumper and a free throw to give the hosts a 24-23 halftime lead.
The Falcons went on another 7-0 run early in the third quarter that began with a 3-pointer from Butler and ended on a 3 from Clark to put them up, 33-26. After the Knights pulled to within 41-38 late in the third quarter following a 3-pointer from Tingley and a layup by Sean Curran, Thornridge started its 11-0 burst that finally ended the drama.
“Some of it’s youth, and some of it’s matchups,” Bob Curran said. “We seem to struggle against real quickness, and you saw the strength-factor difference since a lot of times, we’re out there with four sophomores, but it’s good experience for them. We have a bunch of kids who aren’t used to losing, so they need to understand that this is a little different, and they’re going up against bigger, stronger kids. So you have to keep building and getting better every day, and if they do, we’ll reap the rewards.”