Simeon and Anessah Morrow announced their presence to the rest of the state in the class 3A state semifinals on Friday morning.
The Wolverines defeated usual, but young, state power in Montini 48-40 to advance to the state finals, a first for their girls program.
“It’s been great being here,” said Morrow. “I just want to lead my team to make history.”
Simeon was led by first team all-state representative Anessah Morrow, who poured in 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, nine of which were on the offensive end.
“Aneesah may impact the game more than any other player in the state of Illinois,” said Montini head coach Jason Nichols. “Think about it, a wing player who scores 22 and 13 at 6’1″ and then you get her in the open floor and she’s a locomotive.”
Rebounding was the main difference on the night as the Wolverines turned 20 offensive rebounds into many second chance opportunities.
“That was the game,” said Nichols. “We knew going in that would be the game and it was out weakness. It’s something we’ve been on all year and to be honest, we never really embraced the detail of boxing out.”
Despite being such a young team, with only senior Diamond Stokes on the team the last time Simeon made it down-state in 2017 the team looked like seasoned veterans.
“It was am experience for them, but we’ve played on some big stages before,” said Davenport. “The city championship game was probably the biggest stage they will ever play in, so I didn’t see them being shook by it at all.”
On the other end of the floor, Montini was led by sophomore Sophie Sullivan (12 points), and despite starting four sophomores, along with a freshman and a sophomore being the leading scorers off the bench, the Broncos didn’t let their youth become an excuse and didn’t take the moment for granted.
“I gave them an example about a team we beat way back in the day that were in the same position and never won it,” said Nichols. “They can either be the team that gets older and fixes some of those things, or they can be that team that we didn’t allowed to win a state title. Nothing is guaranteed, we don’t even know if we’ll be back here.”
Simeon led for nearly the entire contest, until a Montini run early in the second half pulled the Broncos level.
But for every Montini run, Simeon responded in kind and always seemed to have an answer.
“We’ve been there before, as I told them we’re battle tested, we have played a lot of close games,” said Davenport. “It’s nothing we haven’t seen before.”
“We have spurts, we’re great for three minutes, horrible for five,” added Nichols. “Is there talent? Absolutely. We have to become a smarter team and we have to become a better practice team.”
Montini would close the gap again, coming within one possession with the ball in hand with three minutes left in the contest, but a costly turnover leading to a Morrow runout was the final nail in the Broncos coffin.
At risk of making an incorrect assumption, in all likelihood, Simeon will face reigning state champions Morton in the finals for class 3A, an opportunity/challenge the Wolverines are looking forward to.
“This is their home town,” said Davenport. “They shut the whole school down, they plat their super-sectionals here, but if we come to play and do what we’ve been doing, I’m not worried about it.”
The class 3A state finals will tip-off at 1:00pm on Saturday.