Timothy Christian enjoys its big night
Timothy Christian pulled out all the stops at Friday's grand opening of its sparkling new Ward Athletic Center -- including a huge stop at the end.
Preventing Chicago Christian from coming all the way back from a 12-point first-quarter deficit, Trojans senior guard Ty Merrick leapt high to intercept an inbounds pass from the Knights' own baseline with 7.2 seconds left to play.
Fouled, Merrick made two free throws with 5.7 seconds left after missing a pair about a minute earlier. The Knights' Micah Schnyders' 3-point try bounced off the bracket to give Timothy a 60-57 win in its Metro Suburban Red opener.
"I was just trying to make it hard for (the inbounder), sort of, just jumping up and down," said Merrick, who scored 6 points with 8 assists.
"After the steal when I shot that first free throw, it went in, goose bumps. It was so loud, it was insane."
Some 1,200 people passed the rotating outdoor spotlights to attend the varsity girls-boys doubleheader in Elmhurst, which featured a performance by the Jesse White Tumblers and noted anthem singer Jim Cornelison belting out "The Star Spangled Banner" at midcourt.
"It was nothing like I've ever played in before. It was just a surreal experience," said Trojans center Brandon Orange, who scored 14 points with 11 rebounds.
Timothy Christian (4-1, 1-0) fed off the atmosphere, posting a 17-5 lead after one quarter and leading 32-21 at halftime.
Mike Thomas made 7 of 8 first-half shots for 16 of his team-high 22 points.
"It was a lot of people, and just fighting the nerves is just the best part of playing for the first time in the new gym," Thomas said after scoring his varsity high.
"I don't know if they could have thrown any more distractions at us and we're a young team right now and didn't handle them real well," said Chicago Christian coach Kevin Pittman.
The Knights became less "reckless" after halftime, Pittman said.
Behind four 3-point baskets in the third quarter, Brian Anderson's 4 second-half steals and long, limber Isayas Aris continuing to rack up a game-high 23 points, Chicago Christian (2-3, 0-1) closed to within 49-41 after three quarters. The Knights rallied to within 58-57 on Anderson's own putback basket with 1:11 to play.
"I think in games like this, when you have two teams that really enjoy playing each other it's always going to come down to a possession game at the end, no matter how the game starts," said first-year Trojans coach Scott Plaisier.
After it finished Merrick was asked what he'll remember most about the Ward Athletic Center's grand opening.
"The win," he said.