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No matter how sluggish that in-between week may be, Timothy Christian’s boys basketball team still has Connor VanderBrug to lean on.
Behind the senior forward’s third straight 30-point performance, the Trojans overcame a sleepy first half to eventually pull away in Tuesday’s 59-44 nonconference victory over Chicago Christian in Elmhurst.
Timothy Christian — traditionally a Class 2A playoff team — is accustomed to beginning regional play this week. For the second straight season, though, the Trojans (15-9) are pegged as a 3A team.
That means filling a week normally reserved for the postseason, which leads us to Tuesday.
Timothy Christian never trailed the Knights (8-17), but it took a 9-0 run from the end of the third quarter to the opening minutes of the fourth to put the game to rest.
VanderBrug, coming off back-to-back 37-point games, scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter to key the outcome. He also grabbed 14 rebounds.
“The first half they had a decent amount of pressure on us and I think we just came out a little slow,” VanderBrug said. “We’ve been known to do that once in a while at the beginning of games, but the second half we picked it up and limited the turnovers.”
After a quick 11-6 burst to start the game, Timothy Christian struggled against the Knights’ half-court traps. Forcing 6 first-half turnovers proved enough to keep Chicago Christian close.
The Knights trailed by as many as 10 points in the second quarter before narrowing the halftime gap to 26-21 on Bradford Fitzpatrick’s bucket.
“It’s a process for us, and once we really got a feel for the game, we just took advantage,” said Trojans senior Justin Rhiner, who pitched in 11 points. “Once the coaches calmed us down, we were ready to handle the pressure and just attack the basket and get easy layups.”
Timothy Christian wraps up the regular season with Friday’s Metro Suburban Conference home game against Ridgewood. The Trojans open the playoffs against Instituto Health Science Charter in the 3A St. Joseph regional quarterfinals Monday in Westchester.
“We weren’t very good with the basketball in the first half, part of that’s from Chicago Christian and what they were doing,” said Trojans coach Jack LeGrand. “I don’t know if it was the Tuesday night game or just coming off playing some pretty good games in a row, but I thought we were a little sluggish.”
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