O’Brien: Thornton, Alonzo Verge wipeout Andrew

Thornton's Alonzo Verge (15) goes hard to the basket against Andrew, January 6, 2017 Allen Cunningham / For the Chicago Sun-Times.

Thornton and star transfer Alonzo Verge have started the season well outside the spotlight. The Wildcats won the Big Dipper Tournament over the holidays, but that once prestigious south suburban institution has fallen on hard times.

The quiet start has given Verge and his new teammates some time to find their footing. Things seem to be progressing right on schedule. The No. 18 Wildcats beat Andrew 62-33 on Friday in Harvey. The Thunderbolts didn’t manage a basket until almost midway through the second quarter. It was a solid warmup for some high-profile games Thornton will have over the next several weeks.

“We struggled down in Decatur [in November],” Wildcats coach Tai Streets said. “But things are coming along. We have a big stretch coming up and it’s nice to see improvement headed into that. I’d rather start the season badly and get better anyway.”

Verge has been putting up big-time scoring totals so far this season, living up to his reputation. His shot wasn’t falling against Andrew (10-5, 2-1 Southwest Suburban Red) but he displayed his other skills, finishing with five assists and three steals. He scored 13 points and shot 5-for-14 from the field.

“The season has been going good,” Verge said. “I’m trying to stay focused on school, basketball and the team. [Orlando Allen Jr.] is starting to notice how I pass the ball. I’m just adjusting and enjoying this.”

Allen Jr. scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds.

Verge has missed two games this season, one with an ankle injury and one for a violation of team rules. He’s a major contender for Player of the Year honors.

“He’s been real good overall,” Streets said. “He’s buying in all the way. I think the sky is the limit.”

Sophomore Christian Simmons came off the bench to score seven points and grab six rebounds for Thornton (10-3, 3-0).

“[Simmons] has a lot of upside, he plays with a lot of confidence and is aggressive,” Streets said.

Andrew entered on an eight-game winning streak. The Thunderbolts won the Kankakee Holiday Tournament. They didn’t have answer for Thornton’s swarming defense.

“We are trying to dominate our conference,” Allen said. “We pride ourselves on our defense. We try to lock people up and take them out of the game, to pressure them and make them do stuff they don’t want to do.”

Senior Joey Krutilla led Andrew with 15 points and six rebounds.

Thornton will face Curie in the Bob Hambric Classic at TF North on Jan. 15.

“I’m definitely looking forward to that, I always love a challenge,” Allen said. “They are one of the best teams in the state, I’m looking forward to it.”

Streets thinks that Thornton’s contract with the Big Dipper is up. The Wildcats have been the Dipper’s signature team for several years now. The tournament added three teams from Indiana to fill out the field this year. Streets isn’t sure where Thornton will play over the holidays next season.

“We’re still up in the air on that,” Streets said. “The crowds were pretty good there. It wasn’t sold out or anything, but turnout wasn’t bad. I haven’t heard anything about them bringing in new teams though.”

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