Simeon looks like the team to beat in 2012

The biggest question after the basketball season is how many titles will Simeon star Jabari Parker win in four years with the Wolverines.

Simeon (30-2) bounced from back-to-back losses to Young (20-11) and Benet (29-1) to win back-to-back state basketball championships.

Parker, who is only a sophomore, has emerged as one of the top players in the country. Parker raised his scoring average from nine points a game to 15 points per contest this past season. Parker scored 12 points as Simeon beat Warren (31-4) 48-39 for the Class 4A championship.

“He’s the best player in Illinois,” Simeon head coach Robert Smith said after winning the school’s fifth state title.

Speaking of legacy, Smith is building an impressive resume that could lead to a college coaching job. Smith, who played at Simeon under Bob Hambric, has now won four state titles in seven seasons while winning 197 games.

Simeon figures to be the preseason favorite next year with nine players including Parker returning for a run at a three-peat.

The best thing that Smith does is to get his team to play disciplined and under control on offense while playing solid team defense.

My choice for Player-of-the Year in the Chicago area is East Aurora guard Ryan Boatright, who will attend Connecticut. Boatright led the Tomcats to a 24-6 mark averaging 31 points per game before losing to Glenbard East (28-4) in the East Aurora sectional championship.

Glenbard East coach Scott Miller is my choice for Coach-of-the-Year. The Rams beat East Aurora in the sectional championship as Miller guided the school to a third place finish in Class 4A. Most high school teams don’t recover from emotional wins. Just ask Young and East Aurora who lost its next game after a huge upset.

Gordon’s Dave Andrews is a player to watch next season, but my choice for best player in our area is St. Benedict’s Krys Gago.

St. Ben's Gago, earlier this year against Crane. Photo credit: Jack Lydon

Gago is solid on and off the court with a 3.0 GPA and an ACT score of 22. Gago would score even with opposing teams knew he was going to shoot the basketball for the Bengals. Gago will play at the college level in 2012.

My choice for Coach-of-the-Year in this area is Mather’s Glen Heffernan. Heffernan brought new life into the Rangers’ basketball program the past two seasons.

Basketball in this area was down besides Mather as none of the neighborhood teams advanced past the first week of the state playoffs. Gordon and St. Benedict lost regional championship games while Mather lost to Simeon in the Public League quarterfinals before losing to Glenbrook North in the state playoffs.

Gordon appears to have the brightest future for next season with four starters returning including Andrews who was named All-Catholic League.

The game of the year in my mind was Bolingbrook’s(28-2) 50-49 overtime win over Public League champ Young in the Girls’ Class 4A semifinals. Not only was it the best game I saw this past season, but the state playoff game is one of the best I have ever seen in 33 years of covering hoops in Illinois.

My fab five from this past season are Boatright, Parker, Morgan Park’s Wayne Blackshear, Rock Island guard Chasson Randle, and Perspectives star Anthony Davis who will play at Kentucky.

Keep an eye next season on Mundelein’s Robert Knar who will be a junior.

Finally, I believe the Public League made a mistake giving up its automatic bid in all sports. The only sport that city teams do well in basketball. The Public League can compete in basketball so they only should have dropped the automatic bid for hoops.

It’s highly unlikely that city athletes in baseball, volleyball, softball, and soccer will advance downstate on a regular basis. City teams have had isolated success in a soccer, volleyball, and wrestling. In most cases, teams in those various sports don’t advance past the first week or first  game of the state playoffs.

In football, only one city team has advanced to the state championship game. Just a thought.


Simeon wins back-to-back state titles

Simeon (30-2) achieved its main goal of winning back-to-back state basketball titles last Saturday night at the IHSA state championships held at the Peoria Carver Arena with a 48-39 win over Warren in the Class 4A game. The Wolverines put on an impressive display on defense forcing 14 turnovers as the Blue Devils (31-4) made only 11-of-41 shots.


Simeon has now won five state championships in hoops while current coach Robert Smith has successfully guided the South side school to four titles in seven seasons.


“It was probably the hardest one because everybody picked us to win it from day one,” said Smith who is 197-36. “Derrick’s (Rose) senior year was the same way (in 2007), but these guys are a little bit different. Last year was fun because nobody gave us a chance.”


“We held them to 48 points and liked our chances, but we couldn’t make shots,” said Warren head coach Chuck Ramsey who has won 377 games.”I credit their defense partially. With each shot there was something different.”


Simeon wasn’t spectacular on offense as Smith’s squad made 14-of-37 attempts at the basket. Six different players scored for Simeon who sealed a second straight state title by making 16 free throws in the second half while holding Warren to five baskets.


Sophomore Jabari Parker scored a game-high 12 points before picking up his third foul in the third quarter. Parker had moments of brilliance in the final game of the basketball season.


“He’s the best player in the state of Illinois,” Smith admitted after the game. “I think he’s probably going to be the best (high school) player to ever play in Illinois simply because he can play all five positions.”


“He’s very talented,” Ramsey said after the loss. “He’s very advanced for his age. He’s very well rounded. He can do a lot of different things on the floor.”


Warren fell behind and never really recovered thanks to Simeon’s defense. The Wolverines built a 11-point lead in the fourth quarter as Warren scored one basket in 12 minutes.


Warren closed the lead to six points twice in the second half but as Ramsey stated couldn’t make shots or score on consecutive possessions.


Simeon jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the opening quarter, and Warren trailed 24-20 at halftime.


Parker picked up his third foul in the third quarter with Simeon protecting a 10-point lead. The sophomore sensation spent three minutes on the bench in the fourth quarter and Warren couldn’t capitalize as the lead grew to 11 points before Brandon Ferguson gave Warren some hope on a three-point basket with 3:47 left.


Parker has really improved his game. Parker averaged nine points per game as a freshman when Simeon won the state title in 2010 with a 51-36 win over Whitney Young. This season, Parker has emerged as one of the best players in the state averaging 15 points and six rebounds per contest.


Rock Island (30-3) won its first state basketball title with a 50-40 double overtime win over Centralia in the Class 3A championship game.


Finally, what is next for Simeon? Simeon has won the most state basketball titles in Illinois, and nine players return for Smith next season including Parker who appears to keep improving his game.


Simeon might have a chance to win four straight titles with Parker on the court.

For a gallery of the game please follow the link below to the Bulldog’s Unique Eye:…en-blue-devils

Brooks wins 3rd place game

Peoria, IL— The basketball team at Brooks was hoping to finish the season by winning the city and state championship. The Eagles (29-4) concluded the season by taking third place in the Class 3A tournament with a 66-52 win over North Chicago on Saturday afternoon at Carver Arena.

“I don’t have the words to describe what we have done and how I feel about these guys,” said first year Brooks head coach Bobby Locke. “To win the city in Chicago is huge. To get down here after winning city is a huge accomplishment.”

“We all came in together as freshman with one common goal and that was to win a state championship,” four-year starter George Marshall said after the win. “Unfortunately, we came up short. We came up short on one goal (of winning state) and accomplished the other one (of winning the Public League).”

Marshall ended his career by scoring 19 points while senior Mike Powell led the Eagles with 20 points as Brooks made 24-of-59 shots after scoring only 13 baskets on Friday.

What a difference a day made for Brooks. The Eagles missed their first eight shots in the semifinal loss to eventual state champion Rock Island (30-3).

“The ball went into the hole,” Locke said on his team’s offense that averaged 72 points per game. “I think it went into the hole today because we were relaxed.”

Saturday was a different story with a better ending. Brooks began the third place game by scoring on its opening possession as senior Powell started the day with a jump shot. The Eagles led 15-14 after the opening quarter and 33-28 before pulling away in the second half.

Powell scored eight points in the fourth quarter as Brooks outscored the Warhawks 11-4 to build a 13-point lead with 2:37 left.

“The only thing I’ve really got to say is I am very proud of them,” said North Chicago head coach Gerald Coleman. “They created history for our school. I really have no comment on the game.”

Aaron Simpson, who will attend Marquette, led North Chicago with 20 points.

North Chicago was also making its first appearance ever downstate.

The question now is where can Locke take Brooks in the future? Can he build the school into a city contender on a regular basis. It’s not easy to compete against Simeon, Young, Marshall, Farragut, and Curie.

Some city schools reload with talent while others rebuild. Locke loses nine players and that is the bad news. The good news is Brooks has been solid the last four years so they might be able to attract potential basketball players who are good student athletes.

Can the Eagles soar in the future? For now, they are the defending Public League basketball champions.

Warren 55, Normal Community 43. Warren on to final

Peoria, IL — The Warren Blue Devils will face Simeon in the finals. Warren dominated the Normal Community Ironmen 55-43 in sem-final action at the Carver Arena this evening.

With turnovers played a big role, Warren and Normal were locked in a two point game at the half.

But Warren broke the game open in the second half, then gave a strong performance to retain their lead.

The lead changed seven times in the first half, with a last second three point shot by Anthony Goodar giving Warren a two point lead.

“It was a physical, tough game with ebb and flow,” Warren Head Coach Chuck Ramsey said. Ramsey said he didn’t know the extent of an injury to Brandon Ferguson.

Ferguson went down in the fourth quarter, at first clutching his side. But he left the court holding his elbow.

Ramsey said he hoped the injury was only a bruise, but he didn’t know the extent of the injury at the time of the presser.

Ferguson played 29 minutes and scored 13 points in the contest.

“They were the best defensive team we’ve seen,” Normal Head Coach Dave Witzig said.

Anthony Beane scored 21 points in the contest.

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Simeon goes to finals again. Wins 56-53 over Glenbard East


Peoria, IL— Simeon High School held on to win 56-53 over a Glenbard East team that wouldn’t give up. With explosive scoring, Glenbard kept closing the gap on Simeon.

Simeon’s win means the school is headed to its second consecutive final appearance.

Simeon won back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007 behind Derek Rose. It is the defending champ.

“We’ve won 30 games in a row,” Simeon Head Coach Robert Smith said. “Sometimes we thought we would step on the court and win.”

Smith credited the loss to Benet, late in the season, with waking the team up.

In the semi-final against Glenbard East Simeon moved out to a 15-0 lead in the first quarter. Glenbard replied with three for three on three point shots to make it 15-9 at the end of the quarter.

“They were a little shell-shocked early,” Head Coach Scott Miller said of the Glenbard squad. But “when they settled down we start rolling.”

Simeon came back in the second quarter. But they failed to put Glenbard away. The Rams ended the quarter with five unanswered points to put them within five of Simeon, 26-21.

Glenbard’s explosive scoring was due to substitutions according to Smith. Who said his second string couldn’t contain the Rams waves. 15 of the team’s 21 first half points were from behind the 3-point line where they shot 33 percent.

In the second half Glenbard tied the game 36-36 with about two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The third quarter was Glenbard’s best quarter. They outscored the Wolverines 15-10.

Head Coach Scott Miller credited Simeon with an excellent zone that took away a lot of his scoring shots. “We shoot a lot of threes,” Miller said. “Their lanes forced us to take shots we didn’t want,” Miller said, but “we had better looks as the game went on.”


Brooks loses in state semifinal

Kevin Gray (brother of Keith Gray in story) defends against Rock Island in IHSA semi-final play Friday.

The Chicago Public League champions fell behind 12-1 and never recovered as the Eagles shot only 13-of-50 for the game in the school’s first visit ever to the state finals.

In a nutshell, obviously the first quarter killed us,”admitted Brooks first-year head coach Bobby Locke. “We couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Defensively we made some mistakes here and there. Scoring wise we didn’t give up a lot of points.”

I think it starts with our defensive effort,”Rock Island head coach Thom Sigel said after the win that put his team in the championship game for the first time since 1910. “I’m sure their guys feel like they missed some looks that they make most of the year, and I’m sure that’s probably true. I think we had a lot to do with that.”

Rock Island will try to win the school’s first state basketball championship against Centralia (30-4) on Saturday afternoon.

Brooks will now play for third place against North Chicago.

Keith Gray led Brooks with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Denzel McCauley led Rock Island with 14 points while Chasson Randle who will attend Stanford added 12 points as the winners made 21-of-47 shots.

Rock Island advanced to the title game with a dominating effort on defense. The Rocks held George Marshall, who is considered one of the state’s best players, to only one three-point basket at the end of the game. Marshall has been a star for four years and was averaging 17 points per game after leading the Eagles to the Public League championship. Marshall will attend Wisconsin and play for Bo Ryan next season.

Marshall finished with five points and missed 11-of-12 shots. Marshall had 24 points to lead Brooks past Young(20-11) in the city title game at Chicago State.

Marshall told reporters after the loss that he just couldn’t make any shots. He missed 11 straight attempts before ending the contest with a three-pointer.

I’ve had off games– but as far as the entire game– not like that (where I was missing every shot),” said Marshall who played in just 15 games due to injuries.

Sometimes you have to give the other team some credit. Rock Island played solid man-to-man team defense as the Eagles were 3-of-21 in the first half and trailed 23-11 at halftime.

Brooks played better in the second half, but they couldn’t overcome that poor start.

Brooks players face the press after losing the match. "We just didn't shoot well," Bobby Locke (in white shirt) told the press.


We just didn’t shoot well,” Locke said. “For whatever reason, the ball just wouldn’t go in the hole for us and it had an effect on how we played defensively. We had a lot of open looks.”

Now, Locke has less than 24 hours to prepare for the third place game.

It’s obviously difficult when you have a bunch of seniors,” said Locke who played for third place while coaching at Evanston. “I’ve been in this situation before. The only positive thing is I’ve had the experience of coaching in the third place game.”

I’m proud of what these guys have done,” Locke said. “Nobody in their wildest dreams could say other than us that we could get to state. No one else said that.”

The key for the Eagles is where will they go after being one of the best teams in the Public League the last four years with Marshall.

Another team with great basketball tradition is Centralia. The Orphans are seeking their fourth state basketball title and the school’s first championship since 1942 after beating North Chicago (17-14) 59-55 as RJ Kwiatkowski scored 23 points.

Here is the link to the gallery of images for the game.…sland-advances