SOUTH HOLLAND | Is Thornwood a sleeper in Class 4A come the postseason?
The Thunderbirds are the No. 6 seed in the Lockport Sectional and face No. 11 T.F. South in one semifinal of the Homewood-Flossmoor Regional.
This was a team which started 0-2, but maybe its tough schedule has paid off. Thornwood will face Andrew on Tuesday for what will be for the SouthWest Suburban Red title. If the Thunderbirds win a share of the title, it will be the program's first conference title since it won the SICA East in 2002. That team featured Melvin Buckley Jr. and David Moss.
What this team showed Friday was the patience that coach Paul Slavich's offense requires. Good passes and good looks at the basket. Yes, Slavich was an assistant to Bob Curran when scores in the 30s were commonplace.
What it also showed was it knows it cannot look past anyone and did not Friday in a 56-48 win over Stagg. This was one of those "trap games" against a team which was 13-10 coming in, but lost several close ones, including an overtime game to the Thunderbirds.
"They could have easily been 16-7 or so coming and we told the kids to play our style of basketball," Slavich said. "We lost a few close ones too, but if we don't win tonight (Friday), then we wouldn't be playing for a conference title Tuesday."
The Thunderbirds have come together, but are not there yet. A share of the conference title would be great to head into the postseason. Should they win Tuesday, they cannot look past District 205 rival Thornton, which handed Andrew its only conference loss, on Feb. 24.
Thornwood struggled the past few years and it took some time to adjust to Slavich when he took over last year. Senior Darell Combs said the program is getting noticed by their classmates.
"We are getting more support and people are starting to show us some love," said Combs, a Loyola (Ill.) recruit. "We want to bring back that great tradition like with Eddy Curry and Reggie Hamilton."
This is a team which has traditionally had slow starts and sometimes comes out slow in the third quarter. Both were evident Friday. The first meeting with Andrew, the Thunderbirds scored three points in the third quarter. If that happens Tuesday against the Thunderbolts, on the road, it could be a long game.
Thornwood has played tough all year and the kids are believing in themselves, but are not too full of themselves to know they have to get better. The coaching staff has done a great job of praising, but also making sure mistakes are corrected.
The Thunderbirds could shock a few people in the postseason, but then it might not be that much of a shock.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.