Timothy Christian's VanderWal puts on a show for big home crowd
It didn't take long at all for the packed homecoming crowd at Timothy Christian to get a sense that Trojans center Ben VanderWal was primed to put on a special performance Friday night against visiting Wheaton Academy.
The 6-foot-7 Furman commit scored the night's first points after he stole a Warriors pass and raced down the court for a slam dunk and a 2-0 lead. VanderWal added another crowd-pleasing dunk late in the contest and did a little everything in between the two slams -- finishing with 30 points in a 59-50 defeat of Wheaton Academy.
"It was our homecoming night so we had a packed house and a really cool atmosphere to play in," said the Trojans senior, who scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half as the hosts shook off a tough start before prevailing. "Last year we didn't get to play in front of fans. And while we've had our share of home games this year, this is our first one where we had the whole community here. It was really cool to be out there playing."
Wheaton Academy (11-10) actually did a solid job defending VanderWal in the first half and led 14-8 after one quarter and 17-8 after Adam Baarman's 3-pointer to open the second quarter. But the Trojans (12-14, 6-2) drew even at 26 at the half after Jake Firnsin's inside basket evened things up with two seconds left.
VanderWal then took over the contest in the second half, draining a pair of 3s, knocking down five free throws, and finishing off a number of strong moves to the rim over the final two quarters of play.
"We did a good job in the first half," Warriors coach Steve Thonn said. "We came out strong. We thought, 'Let's have a good start.' We wanted to put a lot of pressure on him the whole night, but he's a good player and you're never really going to stop him, so we just wanted to keep pressure on him."
With Wade Davis leading all scorers with 13 points in the first half and the Warriors doing their best to contain the Trojans' big guy, Wheaton Academy led for much of the first half. They just couldn't hit enough 3s in the second half or slow down VanderWal.
"We had the lead and they just kept chipping away. He's a good player and we couldn't stop him there. We tried putting everybody on him and helping out, but yeah, he's a good player," Thonn said.
Trey Keizer knocked down two key 3s in the second half for the Trojans and Kyle Steiner added 8 points, but VanderWal was dominant, adding 4 assists, 2 blocks and a pair of steals to go along with his big scoring effort.
"I thought especially in that first half they controlled the game defensively. We were fortunate to make some free throws just to kind of hang around," Timothy Christian coach Scott Plaisier said. "I thought they completely outplayed us in that first half.
"Then in second half we were better defensively, we defended the arch a little bit better, and then 'Vandy' was like Hercules out there. With those types of performances and other guys chipping in where they can ... that's been our recipe for any win we have. It's a handful of guys giving whatever they can and him carrying us."