For Thornton’s Vincent Rainey, this season has brought some totally new experiences. There’s more pressure, more responsibility and much more defensive attention.
That meant a ton of open shots that Rainey has to work much harder now to get.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge from the start,” Rainey said. “I knew I had to step up and be a leader and be more vocal. We have a bunch of guys playing that didn’t play last year, so I knew I had to help them out.
“I knew we were going to be all right, though.”
Rainey is the biggest reason why the Wildcats (12-10) have remained competitive. The senior guard is averaging 17 points and 2.7 assists.
He’s doing it while constantly being at the center of the opposition’s scouting report.
“It’s a different role for him,” Thornton coach Tai Streets said. “He gets all the attention from the defenses. They’re going to do everything they can to shut him down.
“They try to deny him. They bump him. He sees a lot of that every game. He’s had to adjust to that, but he’s still scoring and he’s doing a lot of other things to help out his teammates.”
At the start of the season, Rainey felt more pressure to carry the offense. Now, he has seen his teammates step up, and he’s utilizing things he learned from Rodgers last season.
“Ty was very unselfish,” Rainey said. “He was a pass-first guy. He always looked to get everybody else involved. He was always positive, no matter the situation. He just wanted to win. He was a competitor.
“For me, it’s just being able to trust my teammates and knowing where they like to get the ball, trying to set them up in good spots to score. I know even if teams are going to try to stop me from scoring, I can get everyone else involved.”
Rainey’s biggest role model in basketball has always been his father, Vincent Rainey Sr., who starred at Murray State and is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.
“It was great growing up playing basketball with my dad, watching his game, learning different things from him, hearing all his stories of playing overseas, breaking records in college,” Rainey said. “It’s great to know I always have someone with that type of knowledge around to help me.”
Milestone men: St. Rita’s Morez Johnson topped the 1,000-point mark for his career in Friday’s 49-41 win over Fenwick. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds against the Friars.
Johnson, a junior forward and an Illinois recruit, has been the most consistent force in a topsy-turvy season for St. Rita (16-10). He’s averaging 16.6 points and 10.3 rebounds.
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“Morez brings it every single night,” St. Rita coach Roshawn Russell said. “He’s always ready to go, he’s always going to battle for us and we always know what we’re going to get from him.”
Meanwhile, Chicago Christian coach Kevin Pittman earned his 250th career win with Friday’s 54-43 victory over Timothy Christian.
Pittman is in his 17th season with the Knights, who have won 20-plus games six times in that stretch and earned a sectional championship in the 2007-08 season.
Another year, another title: With Friday’s 80-42 win over Richards, Hillcrest (25-2, 12-0) clinched its 34th conference championship in the last 35 seasons.
T.F. North (17-5, 9-2), which hosts the Hawks on Thursday, could have been playing for a share of the South Suburban Blue championship, but the Meteors were upset Friday by rival T.F. South 67-60.
That sealed the outright title for Hillcrest.
Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.