IL Boys 4A Championship Game:
Wolverines 50, Pirates 48
March 17, 2012
PEORIA — Time for the best of the best…. 1 vs 2 for the 2012 Illinois Boys 4A State title and just as important, bragging rights. Not since 2004, when Homewood-Flossmoor and Peoria Central had it out for the State championship has a matchup been this shiny. Even though the crowd wasn’t as large, the hype was well worth the price of admission.
You almost hated for this game to come to an end, as both team scored back-and-forth, each getting a couple of runs, but once the smoke cleared the basketball court, it was the Wolverines still standing, defeating the Pirates 50-48 at Carver Arena Saturday night.
Coming into this game, top nationally ranked Simeon (33-1) is undefeated in the State and one lost in a tournament held in January, while Proviso East (32-1) is just undefeated, including winning the Proviso West Holiday tournament.
All eyes were on junior phenom Jabari Parker, but it was his teammates that held things together when they need it the most. I’m referring to Steve Taylor, Jaleni Neely and Kendrick Nunn.
“That’s a great team,” Taylor said referring to Proviso East. “They played tough and wanted it just like we did. But as you can see, we wanted it a little bit more.”
The first half ended tied at 23.
“As good as they played and as bad as we played, we were still in the game,” coach Robert Smith said after the game.
Nunn opened the fourth quarter with a solid 3-pointer, shortly afterwards, it was more Nunn, then Taylor and Neely got involved, getting an 8-0 run that gave Simeon a 45-41 lead with 3 minutes, 5 seconds remaining.
Simeon extended the lead to 50-45 on a vicious dunk by Parker with 12 seconds left that was called a technical because he held onto the rim a little too long.
Proviso East’s Sterling Brown wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, considering he held Parker in check for most of the game. The team called a timeout, their last timeout, once they were back on the floor, they advanced the ball with pure precision and Brown nailed a BIG 3-pointer from the right corner with less than three seconds to play (50-48). The problem here is, Simeon never touch nor inbounds the ball, thus, the time ran out and the celebration began.
It was reported that coach Donnie Boyce said after the game “I told Sterling we needed a delay too. I should have told him to throw the ball up in the stands afterwards.”
“Unfortunately we came up two points short,” Brown said. “We had a lot of chances to get there, a lot of chances to capitalize. Their experience and our lack of experience was a factor. This is our first time being here, and everybody wanted to take over instead of playing as a team. We’ll get back here next year and learn from our mistakes.”
With this victory, Parker has one more title than Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose and he still has one more season left to play. “I’m just glad to pass him, but I couldn’t have done it by myself,” Parker said. “Throughout the years I’ve been blessed with good talent around me. I can’t accept this alone.
Parker led the team with 15 points, and Taylor contributed 12 points and 15 boards. Brown finished with the game high of 25 points.
“It was a collective effort. We came out and got a lot of stops,” said Parker after the contest. “Sterling Brown, he’s an amazing player. We just had to play defense when it counted in the fourth quarter.”
“Scheduling is huge,” said Smith whose team only loss cam to national powerhouse Findlay Prep. “You’ve gotta be in this environment, and we’ve been in this environment all year.”
This is Simeon’s sixth state championship and the team decided to leave their mark on this championship by all removing their shoes on the center of the court. IHSA Director Marty Hickman picked up the shoes.
“I really couldn’t tell you how 32-1 feels because it’s so frustrating,” coach Donnie Boyce said after the game. “You’re right there, it was right in your grasp and you can touch it. We took the champions to the limit but didn’t get the job done.”
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