SOUTH HOLLAND | Thornwood's Khapri Alston knew how big Friday's game against SouthWest Suburban Red foe Stagg.
Earlier in the year, The Times No. 5 Thunderbirds escaped in overtime at Stagg. With a first-place showdown with Andrew on Tuesday, Alston and his teammates were not about to look part the Chargers.
Alston scored eight of his game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and had eight rebounds and four steals to lead the Thunderbirds to a 56-48 win. He said the inside game would be important.
"I knew this was a big game and Stagg is a very good team," Alston said. "I was able to get my offense going and also I stepped up my defense."
Teammate Darell Combs said Alston was a force inside.
"He gives us an inside game and he took away their (Stagg's) going inside," Combs said. "We had a slow start, but Khapri did a nice job in the second quarter and we got going. We got some turnovers and we took advantage of that."
After leading 12-9 after one quarter, Thornwood separated itself from Stagg in the second as it forced five turnovers, but did not commit any in the quarter. Alston had six points, two steals and a block in the second quarter as the Thunderbirds took a 31-23 halftime lead and kept its distance.
"We had to take care of the ball and we stepped it up on defense and I think we started playing with more confidence," Thornwood coach Paul Slavich said. "Khapri did a nice job and we used patience and played smart basketball. Stagg, they are a very good team and we knew this one would be a tough one."
The Thunderbirds (18-6, 11-1) are tied with Andrew for the conference top spot. The two meet Tuesday night in Tinley Park. Andrew, which beat Thornridge on Friday, won the first meeting.
"We know it's a big game, but we had to take care of business and win tonight," Combs said. "It took a quarter, but we got everything together."
Combs finished with eight points, while Johnte Shannon had 11 points.