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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Michael O'Brien

Thornton defeats Kenwood in a showdown of the area’s top-ranked teams at the Chicago Elite Classic

Thornton’s Morez Johnson (12) and Meyoh Swansey (3) walk off the court after defeating Kenwood at the Chicago Elite Classic. (Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times)

This wasn’t the typical No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown.

Top-ranked Kenwood and Thornton both limped into the Chicago Elite Classic on Saturday. The Broncos were nearly upset at home by Lincoln Park this week and Thornton lost at home to Bloom on Friday.

Kenwood has several talented tall players: 6-11 Jaden Smith, 6-6 Chris Riddle, 6-5 Calvin Robins and 6-9 Aleks Alston.

But size is a luxury in high school basketball. Quality guard play is essential. The Broncos’ promising freshman Devin Cleveland is out for several weeks with an injury. That leaves sophomore Rajan Roberts, a transfer from Proviso West, and BJ Duling, a senior guard that is known as a defensive stopper.

Thornton’s more experienced guards overwhelmed Kenwood on the way to a 52-45 win at UIC’s Credit Union 1 Arena. The Broncos committed 23 turnovers.

Illinois recruit Morez Johnson injured a finger in the second quarter and spent time out of the game dealing with that and some foul trouble. He finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats (5-1).

Chase Abraham, a transfer from TF North, stepped up and led Thornton with 20 points.

“He was outstanding,” Wildcats coach Tai Streets said. “He had a rough one [Friday against Bloom] but he came back like crazy. He was determined that he was not going to let us lose. Nothing was gonna let us lose today.”

Kenwood (3-1) trailed by six after three quarters. A three-point play from Smith with 3:50 left in the game cut Thornton’s lead to 44-41. Abraham responded with a drive to the basket for a score and three-pointer. That ended the Broncos’ last threat.

Thornton’s Isaiah Green (15) drives toward the basket as the Wildcats play Kenwood. (Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times)

Johnson had posted major statistics in all of the Wildcats’ previous games. He was heartened to see his teammates step up on a major stage at the Chicago Elite Classic.

“It was great seeing my guys get going,” Johnson said. “They’ve been waiting on this moment. They’ve worked hard. I’m glad to see them out there getting it done.”

Isaiah Green had seven points and five steals for Thornton and Layshawn Scott added six points.

Smith was Kenwood’s standout. He was effective defensively against Johnson and had 16 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Despite a significant size advantage, the Broncos were out-rebounded 29-28.

Kenwood hosts Lindblom at home on Tuesday. The Eagles came from behind to beat Joliet West in the opening game of the event.

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