BLUE ISLAND | Sandburg took Thornwood down to the wire in a regional semifinal matchup at Eisenhower High School on Tuesday.
Thornwood took a 33-19 lead over Sandburg (10-17) into the second half and saw it dwindle away to a three-point lead with a minute to go.
"We had a great first half. We saw we had a 20-point lead and started letting up," said Chelby Frazier, who scored eight points for Thornwood.
"What I want to see us get better at is managing that lead," said Thornwood head coach Paul Slavich.
"Sometimes we get in a hurry to shoot, because we’re feeling it. Basketball is a game of momentum. We had the momentum and jumped out early, got up big, and then they came back at us."
Thornwood (23-4) never trailed in the game, and even with the large swing in momentum, Frazier said the team was calm.
"We're good at closing games, but we have to learn how to keep the lead going."
In the final minute, Thornwood had some tough travel calls and gave up some fouls to Sandburg. However, Frazier helped put away the game after he was fouled by Sandburg's Tommy Demogerontas near the minute mark and made both free throw attempts to push the lead back up to five.
"He had two or three steals and a blocked shot," Slavich said.
"Chelby's got an enormous wingspan; he's a basketball player, and I’m glad he's with us"
While Frazier helped seal the game late, Donzel Vinson led the Thunderbirds with 18 points, including four 3-pointers, a few well beyond the arc. The senior went scoreless in the first quarter, but made a strong showing in the second to help push out Thornwood's early lead.
"My gameplan is always to make the first one [3-point shot], because that really gets my confidence going," Vinson said.
"But, if I miss, my teammates and coaches have confidence in me to let me keep shooting."
Vinson's game-leading performance was during a night he could be seen limping between plays, as the senior game slipped earlier in the game.
Thornwood faces Oak Forest in the Eisenhower Regional finals on Friday.
Even with the team’s perfect conference record, Thornwood is expecting to get every team's best shot going forward.
"It's win or go home in the playoffs,”" said Kenneth Bates, Thornwood's junior center.
"This isn't conference where it is just another game"