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Boys Basketball: Thornwood goes distance to KO Oak Forest

Updated: April 10, 2014 6:43AM



When star swingman Donte Thomas went down with a season-ending knee injury, Thornwood coach Paul Slavich had to improvise.

The focus? A heavy, heavy reliance from beyond the three-point arc.

On some nights, the shots fell. On other nights, they didn’t.

And then there was nights like Friday. Thornwood shot a blistering 11-of-18 from three-point range, taking down Oak Forest 81-58 for the Class 4A Eisenhower Regional title in Blue Island.

The regional title was Thornwood’s first since the 2006-07 season. Thornwood (24-4) will meet Homewood-Flossmoor on Wednesday in the Thornton Sectional.

“It’s been a long time,” Slavich said with a smile. “I expect these guys to hit their threes, hopefully in the flow of what we do (offensively). I’ve told the guys they all have the green light. If you’re open, knock it down.”

Rashaad Alexander led Thornwood with 30 points, including four three-pointers, while Donzel Vinson added 20 points on five from distance. Kenneth Bates had just five points but finished with 11 rebounds and three blocks in dominating the paint for the Thunderbirds.

“We’ve shot like this before, so we knew we could do it,” Vinson said. “This means a lot, but we know we’ve got to win three more games to get downstate.”

Mere minutes into Friday’s game, the Thunderbirds had caught fire. Working with an 8-6 lead, Vinson drilled back-to-back threes from an almost identical spot on the right wing.

Alexander added a hard drive, his shot rolling completely around the rim before falling to extend the lead. Thornwood ended the first on a 12-0 run, going up 20-6.

The Thunderbirds held a 42-25 halftime lead, and went up by as many as 33 in the third period.

“Just playing defense,” Alexander said. “We worked so much in practice on defense, knew all their plays, watched film (Thursday and Friday), and our coaches prepared us so well.”

Oak Forest (22-6) was led by Tom Shute’s 17 points. Kyle Flanagan (11 points) and Jason Roland (10 points) also contributed for the Bengals.

“Thornwood’s a great shooting team, and they played a great game,” Oak Forest coach Matt Manzke said. “If we hit a couple of layups, maybe we stay in striking distance.

“This team (Oak Forest) did what we’ve been trying to do for a long time. They bought into each other and played as a team.”



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