Turns out understanding why Chandler Thomas is such a relentless rebounder is as easy as figuring out why Spencer Thomas also can't be kept off the glass.
The twin brothers, juniors at West Aurora, grew up playing fierce games of one-on-one. That determination to get the best of the other now translates into high motors out to yank down every rebound possible.
"When we would box each other out we'd get after it," remembered Spencer Thomas. "We'd go up against each other every day since we were little kids in the cul-de-sac playing one-on-one. Whoever wins the other is going to be upset. We love each other when we get back home."
It was the West Aurora Rowdies who were loving their play Tuesday. Too bad for No. 1 seed Plainfield East that those brothers have now joined forces because the Bengals -- even with 6-foot-9 center Brian Bennett -- couldn't do anything to slow the duo's dominating rebounding effort in the Blackhawks' 58-53 overtime victory at the Class 4A East Aurora sectional.
Chandler Thomas led all rebounders with 12 while Spencer Thomas came off the bench with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"I thought I'd have to hit them harder because this guy 34 (Bennett) is just a monster," Spencer Thomas said. "Coach (Gordie Kerkman) told me to hit the boards hard. I did my job out there pretty well I thought."
Bennett collected just 5 rebounds despite the Thomas brothers both giving up 7 inches.
"I looked at this game as a chance to step up," Chandler Thomas said. "They have a 6-9, 6-10 kid on their team, what better opportunity to go up there and take every board from him. I just went up there with the mentality that every board is mine. I want to help my team. I want to get this win and that's what I did."
It didn't look like the Blackawks would get it down 30-18 midway through the third quarter. Three-point shooting from Jontrel Walker and Juwan Starks got the Blackhawks back in the game, then the Thomas brothers made one hustle play after another to help them pull it out.
West Aurora forged the first tie at 37-37 when Spencer Thomas rebounded his own missed free throw and scored for a three-point play.
Later, Chandler Thomas twice grabbed offensive rebounds off missed West Aurora free throws that both times led to points.
"I just thought this is my board, I want this board, go in there and muscle them and grab that board," Chandler Thomas said. "Get the layup or pass it out. You have to go in there and play hard."
The three offensive rebounds on missed free throws were a turning point in a tight game that easily could have gone the other way.
"That's effort," Kerkman said. "Those guys will give you that."
Spencer Thomas opened the scoring in overtime with a putback. He wound up with 7 points in overtime and also defended Deontre Brown on a missed jumper in the final minute.
It was the second straight double-double in the postseason for Spencer Thomas.
"It's either go home or stay," Spencer Thomas said. "At practice I've done a good job. Coach always gets on me hit the boards, hit the boards, hit the boards and that's all I have to do. That's my only job so far."
If rebounding is 90 percent 'want-to' that might be a good starting point in explaining how the brothers dominated against such a taller opponent.
"It's a little bit of everything. You have effort, physicality, positioning, it's all mixed into one. You just have to go out there and do everything you can," said Chandler Thomas who like his twin also pointed to the experience playing against each other.
"It's helped me my whole life. I used to play with him in the driveway every day. It was a competition, see who was going to win. Playing against someone you know, you have to be physical with him, and that's where the mentality comes from."
The last time West Aurora played at the East Aurora sectional in 2006 the Blackhawks also relied on rebounding to advance. That night it was Tyler Thompson and Denardo Eiland giving Batavia fits in an unforgettable sectional final.
Six years later the Blackhawks are back in the championship game again thanks in large part to their effort inside.
"It's very emotional, it's very exciting, it's amazing," Chandler Thomas said. "I've never been on a stage like this before. It's just an opportunity most people never have. It's an honor to be playing in something like this."