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A Brian Nicholson putback gave Thornton its first lead of the game, but more staggering for Andrew was watching Jubril Adekoya go down with an apparent ankle injury suffered on the second-quarter play.
Adekoya wouldn’t return, and the Thunderbolts wouldn’t overcome the loss of their star, falling Tuesday night to Rayshaun Bruce-led Thornton 56-52 in Harvey.
The win gives Thornton (10-8, 7-1) a one-game lead over Andrew (10-8, 6-2) in the SouthWest Suburban Red.
“Any time you lose a player of that caliber, it hurts,” Thornton coach Troy Jackson said. “We were probably fortunate that he was gone.”
With Adekoya out, Bruce took the reins for Thornton and finished with a game-high 17 points. Bruce scored the first nine Wildcats points of the fourth quarter, and his bucket on a flashy pass from Justin Montgomery (nine points, three assists) gave Thornton a 10-point lead midway through the frame.
“[Bruce] is a kid that’s made tremendous strides this year,” Jackson said. “Last year he came off the bench for us. He did a decent job, but I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in him. He had to earn my confidence. This year he’s stepped it up and played real well.”
Glorind Lisha and Luke Hook did their best to keep Andrew afloat with 15 points apiece. Adekoya exited with 10.
Lisha and Hook had back-to-back three-pointers to move Andrew to within four points with 2:55 remaining. Lisha then hit another triple to cut Thornton’s lead to two, but Andrew turned the ball over with 7.3 seconds remaining, leaving Justin Taylor (12 points) to bury game-sealing free throws.
“That’s the best Glorind has played all year,” Andrew coach Mike O’Halloran said. “That’s the Glorind Lisha of last year, so I hope he’s here to stay.
“I thought we played extremely well. I told the guys I couldn’t be more proud of them in defeat than I have been in victory. It just goes to show you that we’re a team, and we fought hard.”