There’s a certain expectation for the Simeon basketball program, one that doesn’t seem to apply any other school in the state.
Such lofty expectations could explain why Simeon’s wire-to-wire, 64-53 win over Whitney Young to advance to the Public League finals was met with a stoicism that could only be shown by a team who has been there so many times before.
“Thats was our second worst game we played all year,” said Simeon head coach Robert Smith. “It was just a terrible game, defensively we were good but offensively I thought we were terrible.”
Despite their double digit win being their “second worst loss” of the season, it didn’t start out all bad for Simeon. The Wolverines jumped on Whitney Young early, as a 15-0 run propelled them to a 17-4 first quarter lead.
But just like in their game against Morgan Park in the quarterfinals, Whitney Young slowly started to crawl their way back in the game behind sophomore Tyler Beard.
Beard scored 11 of his 13 points in the second quarter to help bridge the gap between the two teams, making the halftime deficit a much more manageable three points.
“It’s just a wake up call that everyone isn’t going to lay down for us,” said Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker. “When we have those big leads, we have to keep our composure and close everything out.”
However, there would be no repeat comeback for Whitney Young this time around. Simeon started the third quarter on 9-0 run to push their lead back to double digits.
After the initial burst after halftime from Simeon, neither team were able to get much of anything going down the stretch.
Sloppy play dictated the game from midway through the third quarter on, which was enough for Simeon to coast to the finish and punch their ticket to the Public League finals for the fourth year in a row.
Messiah Jones led all scorers with his 23 point, 13 rebound performance with Horton-Tucker adding 16 points and nine rebounds.
Awaiting Simeon in the finals is Orr, which is arguably the most anticipated matchup of the season, as the Spartans have made it clear that they wanted their shot at Illinois’ number one team.
“We’re the hunted,” said Smith. “It’s four years in a row, it’s nothing new.”
“We keep to ourselves, we don’t talk much and just let it come to us,” added Horton-Tucker. “If they wanted to come to us they got what they wanted.”
The championship game between Orr and Simeon is scheduled to take place at Chicago State University this Sunday at 4:00.