CRETE | It wasn't all that pretty. At times, the winner wasn't really effective. But Times No. 3 Thornwood will take its 56-46 victory over no. 2 Mount Carmel on Saturday at the Crete-Monee Shootout, thank you very much.
"Mount Carmel never stopped playing hard," Thornwood coach Paul Slavich said. "We've got to learn to play different styles of ball."
For a time in the second half, the Caravan's more deliberate game seemed to vex the Thurnderbirds, who can run with the best of them. Thornwood led 16-9 after a quarter, but was up only four points after Emmanuel Okafor's basket 4:14 into the third quarter.
"They're a tough team; a big strong team," Slavich said.
Then senior guard Rashaad Alexander stepped up. His 3-pointer with 1:53 left in the third, and another by him with 62 seconds left in the quarter, pushed the Thunderbirds nine points ahead.
"It was our screen offense," said Alexander, who led Thornwood with 15 points, but refused to take credit for individual brilliance. "It's all because of my teammates."
A lay-up by sub Abdul Ogunnaike made it 36-25 after three, and Thornwood (7-2) never led by less than eight points the rest of the way.
For Mount Carmel (8-3), one word from coach Mike Flaherty summed it up: "Frustrating."
"We've had a lot of periods of bad basketball over the last few games," Flaherty said. "I don't feel patient. I'm pretty frustrated. We don't play as a team."
Mount Carmel hit only 15 of 46 shots from the floor, and made only four baskets across the second and third quarters. It's a credit to the Caravan's defense that they only trailed by 11 with eight minutes to go.
The margin had been trimmed to eight points when David Nichols converted a conventional three-point play with 1:56 remaining. But less than 30 seconds later, he picked up his fifth foul, then mouthed off to an official and was hit with a technical. Not only did Thornwood make all four free throws, Nichols is out of Mount Carmel's next game, the first contest in the Pekin Holiday Tournament on Thursday.
"I told him that's selfish on his part," Flaherty said. "It was an eight-point game at the time. Anything can happen."
Gabe Grant led the Caravan with 15 points, Montana Byrd coming off the bench to add 12. Chelby Frazier also had 12 points for Thornwood.
In the first game of the day, Rich Central beat T.F. South 61-56.
Brody Love's two free throws and subsequent basket gave Rich Central a 50-47 lead with 4:18 remaining, and the Olympians never yielded the advantage.
T.F. South's Ka-Ton Mays' layup cut the lead to a point with 1:12 remaining, but he missed the free throw awarded on the play, allowing Rich Central to hang up. Mays led the Rebels with 15 points, Ron Ryan adding 10. Art Sutton's 15 points led Rich Central.
T.F. South fell to 4-6. Rich Central is 1-8.