BLOOMINGTON - After the first quarter Friday night, Rockton Hononegah's basketball team definitely was feeling Blue.
Thornwood junior guard Trey Blue scored his team's first 11 points and 14 in the period. Blue finished with 23 points as the top-seeded Thunderbirds held off a second-half rally by No. 2-seeded Hononegah to earn a 42-33 victory in the State Farm Holiday Classic's Class AA championship game at Shirk Center.
"I just came out focused for this game," said Blue, who sank four 3-pointers in the first quarter. "I really had to take some time alone and think about winning this game so we could come back into conference play 10-1. I came out taking smart shots and they went in."
Rock Island continually found Jonathan Burnett down in the low post during the third-place game. The 6-foot-7 Burnett scored 21 points as the Rocks downed Normal Community 54-43.
Grayslake earned fifth place with a 51-46 victory over Mount Zion, while Chicago St. Rita beat Andrew 70-66 in the seventh-place game.
Thornwood expanded an 18-7 lead after the first quarter to 28-14 at halftime. However, Thornwood coach Bob Curran figured a rout wasn't in the making.
"When you play tournaments, there's a lot that's taken into consideration. I thought they were a lot deeper team," said Curran. "I thought we would run out of a little energy in the second half, so the one thing we talked about in this basketball game was I told them we're running a mile race here.
"We have to get out to a start and make them chase us and then we have to hold on. I figured it would be one of those games."
Forward Eric Miller, who led Hononegah (10-3) with 11 points, sank a 6-foot turnaround jumper to cut Thornwood's lead to 30-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
Thornwood scored five straight points to push the lead to 37-26 with 3:35 left and the Indians couldn't get within seven again.
"I was really pleased with our effort in the second half. I was pleased with the way we competed," said Hononegah coach Mike Miller. "It was a great experience for us to make it to the championship game. We're coming out of here tonight disappointed, but feeling pretty good about the experience."
Blue basically won the game for Thornwood in the first quarter when he sank 5 of 6 field goal attempts, including all four from beyond the arc.
"We knew they were very capable to make shots and be explosive," said Miller. "Not only was he shooting well, he was shooting well from deep. A couple of those were 3 or 4 feet behind the line."
Thornwood's rebounding also hurt Hononegah. Blue grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and Cameron Snelling had 10 as the Thunderbirds held a whooping 41-13 advantage.
NCHS (4-6), the No. 10 seed, seemed a lock to set the tournament defensive record of 36.3 points allowed by University High in 1992. The Ironmen gave up just 92 points in their first three games.
However, fifth-seeded Rock Island (8-5) found plenty of openings in the Ironmen's interior defense and NCHS missed the record after finishing at 36.5. The Rocks pounded the ball to Burnett, who made 7 of 8 shots both from the field and free-throw line.
"What's nice is when you get a guy down there and he's finishing, guys look for him a little more," said Rock Island coach Thom Sigel. "We executed and made the right pass. Sometimes we should get it to him a little more."
Burnett's basket with 4:06 left in the third quarter gave the Rocks a 35-34 lead they would never relinquish. NCHS sophomore Chris Lawson drew the Ironmen within 41-39 with a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, but the Ironmen had only two more baskets the rest of the game.
NCHS shot a respectable 45.9 percent from the field (17 of 37), but was only 5 of 10 from the free-throw line. The Ironmen also committed 11 of their 14 turnovers in the second half.
"That was a really tough offense for us to stop. We had no answers for 44 (Burnett) and they had some back-door layups on us," said NCHS coach Dave Witzig. "We had some defensive breakdowns. We played great defense the first three games, than today we didn't have a great defensive effort."
Sophomore Alex Buck came off the bench to lead NCHS with 11 points. Craig Lutes added eight points.
"Offensively, we actually made some shots today. But we were doing a lot of little things wrong," said Witzig. "We have a lot of things we need to work on, our passing and screening and a lot of fundamentals we need to get back to in practice."
Blue, Miller and Burnett were joined on the all-tournament team by Elias Washington of Grayslake, Josh Edmonds of Peoria Notre Dame and Alan Douglass of Urbana.