PALOS HEIGHTS | Even a casual observer can tell a nonconference game between Illiana Christian and Chicago Christian in the post-Private School League era has more than a mere win on the line.
It's still for bragging rights.
Illiana can brag for the next year. The Vikings rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second half to win 58-53 before a packed house that included Benny the Bull.
The turnaround came for two reasons. First, Illiana switched from a man-to-man to a 1-2-2 zone that hampered Chicago Christian's drive-and-score game, which dominated the first half. Second, senior Jon Zandstra, who made a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter and then went dormant, erupted like Vesuvius.
He connected on four 3-pointers in succession on the third quarter, the last of them erasing all but one point of the big deficit. It came with 3:48 left in the quarter. Caleb Jonkman's driving basket 27 seconds later brought Illiana its first lead of the night.
That was a bonus to Illiana coach Tom Roozeboom.
"We wanted to get half (of the 14 points back); to get it all back in four minutes is a testament to our character,' Roozeboom said.
And to the defense, which held the Knights to one field goal in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Chicago Christian, 13-of-18 from the floor in the first half, now couldn't buy nor beg for a basket.
"We went to the zone because they were killing us," Roozeboom said.
The roles quickly reversed. Zandstra, who finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds, relished it.
"I didn't want to lose," Zandstra said of his second-half surge. "My teammates were sharing the ball. The basket? It looked bigger. It really did.
"This is pretty big. We have a lot of fun preparing for this game."
And even more fun succeeding in it.
Jonkman added 13 points for the Vikings (12-7), who return to Metro Suburban Conference play against Ridgewood on Friday. Roozeboom hopes the lesson learned is still there a week hence.
"They've got to look at this and see how well they played," Roozeboom said. "It's a big win for us."
Corey Bulthuis led Chicago Christian (6-8) with 12 points. Brenden Wolinski added 11.
The gym was full for the start of the sophomore game, which Illiana won, 51-38.