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Taller and more skilled across the board, Simeon played a straight-up man-to-man defense. Bloom, meanwhile, deployed a more swarming man D, double-teaming Simeon stars Jabari Parker and Steve Taylor whenever they got the ball, and moving to the ball whenever anyone took it into the free-throw lane. Bloom held Parker without a field goal in the first half, and actually led 13-9 after a quarter.
Yet Simeon cracked that swarming defense by attacking it from the wings along the baseline. Once they seemed to get a handle on Bloom, they moved ahead and took a 24-18 halftime lead and held it at 30-24 through three quarters.
That's when the big stars finally got involved. Bloom point guard Donald Moore was really stymied by Simeon, especially Kendrick Nunn, but he hit a three-pointer to bring Bloom within two. Parker, however, came right back on the other end and put together a three-point play to reinstate a five-point lead, and in the end Simeon tacked on some free throws to make the final 45-35.
Simeon will be much more evenly matched against unbeaten Proviso East out of Maywood in tonight's final. It's the marquee matchup hoops aficionados have been waiting for all season. (Simeon's only loss came in a nationally televised game against a Nevada high school on the Martin Luther King holiday.) Yet Proviso looked intimidated on the big stage at Bradley University's Carver Arena Friday (their semi against Rockford Auburn was 4-2 through the first quarter) before pulling away for a 55-45 victory. They won't have that luxury to slowly get their feet under them against Simeon.
It says here Simeon will win its record sixth state title tonight and third in a row in a game broadcast at 8:15 on WMAQ TV's Channel 5.2. I'll be watching from downstate on Peoria station My 59.