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Justin Taylor banked in his first shot from beyond the arc, he took a step backwards and shrugged his shoulders.
A seminal play for Taylor, the junior continued to score in a variety of ways.
Taylor finished with 18 points and six rebounds to lift Thornton over host Andrew 59-53 Friday in the SouthWest Suburban Red opener.
Junior guard Da’Marques Turner added 14 points and Justin Montgomery netted 10 for the Wildcats.
Jubril Adekoya (17-for-19 on free throws) had a monster game for Andrew, notching 33 points and 21 rebounds, but he was too often a one-man wrecking crew.
“Tonight soothed our curiosity about how good or bad we really are,” Thornton coach Troy Jackson said after his team opened up the season 0-3 at the burly Decatur Tournament. “And I think we can play. I really had confidence in these guys.”
Taylor spearheaded Thornton’s aggressive dribble-drive offense as Andrew failed to stay in front of ball handlers or help on defense. In turn, Thornton (1-3) hit nine shots from deep, including four consecutive third quarter threes from Turner to balloon Thornton’s advantage to 52-36.
“I was looking for the drive. When I started blowing past people, it opened up my shot, and that’s how I got my threes off,” Taylor said, converting a trio of three-pointers.
Andrew (1-3) ratcheted up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter to shockingly close the gap, and Adekoya scored on an assist from Glorind Lisha (six points, four assists) to cut Thornton’s lead to 56-53. But Turner responded with a pair of free throws with 10 seconds remaining.
“Jubril is the man,” Jackson said. “He’s a horse.”
“I think finally the lightbulb when on [in the fourth],” Andrew coach Mike O’Halloran said. “It was desparation time and they finally started listening to the coaching staff. I wish these guys would appreciate what they have in their midst. A player like (Adekoya) comes around once every 25 years.”