Simeon surpasses Stevenson in Showdown
The woman seated next to one of Simeon's most famous alumni reacted enthusiastically to a foul called on a Stevenson defender and spoke perhaps prematurely.
"It's over!" she shouted.
Milwaukee Bucks rookie Jabari Parker, who arrived in Niles West's standing-room-only gym wearing his excessively large Simeon letterman's jacket, quickly and playfully grabbed the woman's shoulder.
Parker knew that his Wolverines hadn't quite yet won Saturday night's main event in the 20th annual City-Suburban Showdown. Sure enough, Jalen Brunson scored on a drive and split two free throws in nine seconds to cut an eight-point deficit to five with 1:31 left. But after a thunderous dunk by the Wolverines' 6-foot-7 Edward Morrow, yes, it was all but over.
Simeon, the state's No. 2-ranked team, beat Stevenson, the state's top-ranked squad, 66-55.
Simeon, which got a team-high 18 points and 6 rebounds from 6-4 junior Zachary Norvell, improved to 24-2. Stevenson fell to 22-3 with its first loss to an Illinois team this season.
"I think it's a great way for our team to grow," said Patriots guard Connor Cashaw, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds. "A lot of guys got extra experience. Some guys got dinged up. We just got to keep believing in ourselves and keep believing in each other."
Brunson led all scorers with 25 points but shot just 9 of 24 from the floor. Simeon sent bodies at him all night and, outside of Cashaw, Brunson (1 assist) got little offensive help from his teammates.
"You can hardly stop him," Simeon coach Robert Smith said. "We just wanted to put different people on him and wear him down. I think our guards did a great job of wearing him down. What we noticed on film was, nobody ever attacked him."
After scoring just 7 points in the first half, Brunson took over in the third quarter. He poured in 13 points, only to be shut down again in the fourth, making only 1 of 6 shots. Like all of his teammates, Brunson had a difficult time getting easy looks close to the basket against Simeon's length. The Wolverines boast nine players who stand at least 6-5.
"It felt like they crowded us and the court got smaller," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "We can do a better job of spacing and making sure that we're not crowding ourselves as much as they're crowding us."
A night after beating Lake Forest to clinch the outright North Suburban Conference Lake Division championship, Stevenson wasn't blaming fatigue.
"No, I think execution was a factor," Brunson said. "We didn't execute at all. We just need to listen to the coaches and then do what we're told."
"I didn't see fatigue," Ambrose added. "We would have loved to have gone to overtime."
Cashaw scored 17 points in the first half but was held without a field goal (0 of 5) in the second half.
"(Simeon was) just being more physical," Cashaw said. "I got to do a better job of not just scoring but rebounding and playing defense. It's just a learning experience."
The Nebraska-bound Morrow finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Isaiah Moss, an Iowa recruit, sank four 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 14 points. Simeon also got production from reserves Joshua Thomas (8 points, 7 rebounds) and 5-9 sophomore guard Eric Gilyard, who played tough defense on Brunson Norvell banked in a long 3 to beat the first-half buzzer and pull Simeon with 27-26. His free throw with 1:47 left in the fourth capped an 11-0 run and put his team up 60-52.
"We were pretty excited (to play Stevenson)," Morrow said. "Everybody doubted us."