Simeon-Proviso East: Not hyped enough | Bleader

Simeon-Proviso East: Not hyped enough



Simeon: Welcome back to the state boys basketball title.
Wotta game. Hyped all season, the seemingly inevitable Illinois boys' basketball title matchup between top-ranked Simeon and number two Proviso East—neither of whom had lost all season within the state—turned out to be one of those rare athletic events that actually transcend expectations.

If you missed Simeon's 50-48 victory—broadcast locally on a spare digital channel of WMAQ TV—I'm sorry the hype didn't make it more imperative to watch.

Simeon again was the bigger, more talented team. Its only loss this season came to an even bigger Nevada prep squad in a nationally televised game on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Both teams deployed a man-on-man defense for most of the night. Yet Proviso tried to make up for the size and talent differential by pushing the tempo on offense—trying to get shots before Simeon could set up its defense—and with a full-court press with traps at half-court and along the sidelines on defense.

It made for an even matchup. The game was tied at 11 at the quarter and at 23 at the half. Then Proviso's relentless pace seemed to tire Simeon, and the Pirates took a 39-34 lead going into the final quarter, led by Sterling Brown, the best player on the court this evening (even though the Tribune didn't agree). He hit a high, arcing shot over Simeon's lauded Jabari Parker to put the Pirates up 32-29, and added a three-point play before the quarter to give him 20 points. He'd hit another arcing shot over Parker in the final seconds to finish with a game-high 25 points.

Yet Simeon, quite simply, responded like a champion. The Wolverines got a handle on Proviso in the final quarter, and forward Steve Taylor pulled them even at 41 with a pair of free throws and put them ahead with an ensuing hook shot. Simeon used an 8-0 run to pull ahead, and Parker put the game away with a thundering dunk as Simeon finally showed it had mastered the Pirates' press.

It was Simeon's third straight state title, and sixth overall—a new record.

Parker, who did not play particularly well in the semis and title game at Carver Arena at Bradley University, is a junior who will be back next year. Simeon Coach Robert Smith, who claimed his record fifth state championship, talked of a "four-peat" afterward. So go ahead, start the hype; Simeon deserves it.