LOCKPORT | This time, Bloom Township left no doubt.
After requiring a furious fourth-quarter rally to escape disaster in last Friday's regional final against Sandburg, the Blazing Trojans seized control of Tuesday night's Class 4A Lockport Sectional semifinal much earlier.
Bloom was nine points ahead of Thornton by halftime, and the disappearance of the Wildcats' offense over the last 16 minutes made it easy for the Blazing Trojans to advance deeper into the postseason. Holding Thornton to four points in the second half, Bloom (26-3) registered a 44-24 victory that earned it a berth in Friday's sectional title game.
The Blazing Trojans will meet the winner of tonight's semifinal clash between Homewood-Flossmoor and Andrew.
"(Last) Friday was a big eye-opener," said Bloom senior guard Lejavius Johnson, who scored a game-high 17 points. "We stayed more consistent throughout this game."
Despite the close call his club had a few days before, Blazing Trojans coach Jasper Williams wasn't fearful of a repeat.
"This is a veteran team," he said. "We didn't have to say anything (to them) about Friday night. Our seniors have been leaders all year, and we had a couple good days of practice."
Then Bloom went out and had a very good game night. The Blazing Trojans' defense was the key — it held the Wildcats (13-16) to one basket over the last 18 minutes.
"It was all about hustle out there," said Bloom forward Johnny Griffin, who finished with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
"We wanted to come back and play harder (after Friday), and we did a better defensive job. We were not letting anybody drive the lane."
Marcus Ford did some early damage for the Wildcats from the perimeter, but the senior guard did not score after the first quarter. His 10 points still led Thornton, which went 8-of-37 from the floor.
Although disappointed with the outcome, Ford was proud of the Wildcats' run to a regional championship following a losing record in the regular season. He said it laid a foundation for next year's players.
"It shows them not to give up," Ford said. "Play hard through thick and thin because anything can happen."