When high school basketball fans think back to the 1980s, programs like Quincy, Providence St. Mel, East St. Louis Lincoln and the arrival of city powers King and Simeon are easy to think back on.
The 1990s brought us memorable basketball giants in Peoria Manual and Thornton, a few steamrolling Proviso East teams and the continued dominance of King.
The first 10 years of the 2000s included Glenbrook North, Peoria High and the beginning of a Simeon juggernaut.
This list is comprised of the 50 winningest programs over the past 10 years, starting with the 2010-11 season and concluding with the 2019-20 season. Every team in every class throughout the Chicago area will be broken down in a variety of ways. But total wins, with winning percentage used as tie-breaker, determined the rankings.
We present No. 19 Thornton today and will add one program a day going forward.
19. THORNTON: 216-75
Decade’s biggest storyline: The coronavirus pandemic tore down what was an unforgettable season for Thornton basketball.
Red-hot Thornton headed into the sectional championship game with Marian Catholic this past March with a sparkling 32-1 record. This was the most wins for a Thornton team since Rocky Hill’s tremendous teams in the mid-1990s churned out three straight 30-plus win seasons.
The Wildcats, who were set to play Marian Catholic before the state tournament was shut down, were aching for a shot at a sectional title and a super-sectional matchup with either Curie or Young.
Underrated highlight: There was a ton of excitement when Tai Streets took over the Thornton basketball program in 2015.
Streets is a south suburban legend having been a multi-sport star in high school — and Thornton graduate — before playing football at Michigan and in the NFL.
Streets was hired and big results followed in Harvey. Thornton has won four conference titles, three Big Dipper titles and three regional championships while averaging just under 24 wins a season. He was named the City/Suburban Suburban Hoops Report Coach of the Year this past season.
Player of the Decade: Alonzo Verge (2017)
All-Decade Team: Brian Greene, Jr. (2011), Justin Taylor (2014), Samuel Taylor III (2016), Alonzo Verge (2017) and DJ Williams (2020)
Other decade highlights
-The decade produced seven conference championships and five regional titles (2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2020). Three different teams reached sectional championship games. Both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 teams reached the sectional final where it lost to Simeon, while the 2010-11 team fell to Crete-Monee in the sectional championship.
-Star guard Alonzo Verge lit up the south suburbs for one season. The dynamic scoring guard was named the Sun-Times Player of the Year following the 2016-17 season.
–There are five former Thornton players from the decade playing professional basketball overseas, including Antonio Levy (2011), Charles Knowles (2011), Marvin Jones (2012), Jamani Pierce (2014) and Justin Taylor (2014).
-There is a long history in the south suburbs when it comes to holiday tournament basketball at the Big Dipper. With tournament titles in 2015, 2106 and 2019, where Demarco Minor was named tournament MVP, Thornton passed Rich Central for the most Dipper Tournament titles with 10.
-The winningest coach at the junior varsity level in Thornton history passed away. He coached for 20-plus years at the JV level.