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Thornwood guard Chelby Frazier told his teammates before the start of overtime against Thornton they were going to win this game.
He then went out and delivered on his promise.
Frazier’s free throw and three-pointer in the extra session erased a one-point deficit and ignited Thornwood to a thrilling 69-64 win over archrival Thornton in a SouthWest Suburban Red battle in Harvey.
Frazier registered a team-high 17 points off the bench, including two clutch threes in the fourth quarter.
“I was hyped,” Frazier said. “They (Thornton) were doing a lot of talking. Everybody thought we were going to lose without Donte (Thomas). I’m just so happy.”
The loss of Thomas, a Bradley recruit, to season-ending knee surgery in January was expected to have an adverse affect on the Thunderbirds.
Instead, Thornwood (15-4, 8-0) has won six straight, flaunting considerable depth at guard and a big-time presence in the middle in 6-foot-9 Kenneth Bates.
Bates had just nine points, but he constantly altered Thornton’s shot attempts near the basket.
“His length hurt us,” Thornton coach Troy Jackson said. “The big boy takes up space around the basket and forces you to adjust your shot.”
When Rashaad Alexander (14 points) buried a deep three early in the third quarter to give Thornwood a 39-30 lead, it appeared Thornton was on the verge of being embarrassed on its fabled gym floor.
That’s when Justin Taylor stepped up. After a three-point first half, Taylor exploded for 13 points in the third quarter, rallying the Wildcats to a 52-49 lead after three quarters.
Taylor finished with a game-high 22 points.
“I think we lost our composure a little bit at that point,” Thornwood coach Paul Slavich said. “We just needed to step back and regain our composure.”
That the Thunderbirds did. Thornwood led 62-59 with less than 30 seconds to go when Taylor drilled a three with 14.6 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game 62-62 and force overtime.
Thornton (12-5, 6-2) appeared to have all the momentum and a supportive home crowd to its advantage. Thornwood, however, never flinched.
“This means a lot,” Alexander said. “We played hard and we kept our composure.”
Kaliph Fagan added 13 points and Brian Thomas eight for Thornwood, which converted 29-of-58 field-goal attempts.
Jamani Pierce and Leslie Wilson contributed 18 and 11 points, respectively, for Thornton, which finished 22-of-59 from the field.
“There were times when we should have pulled the ball back and set up our offense,” Jackson said. “But the guys couldn’t hear me. It was so loud. We had an off night.”