Justin Dukes is a contributor to WARR.com; The City Game focuses coverage on the game of basketball at the amateur levels in and around the city of Chicago
Adding to their already rich legacy, the Simeon Wolverines’ goals of a city championship three-peat were fulfilled this past weekend at Chicago State University to a packed house at the Jones Convocation Center.
With a 23-3 record going in to the weekend, the Wolverines were already favorites as they prepared to face the 21-6 Whitney Young Mustangs.
The game started off with a good helping of inside buckets by the wolverines, while their press had the Mustangs looking shaky and unsure resulting in a 13 point lead by the Wolverines early on.
While the press by the Wolverines was able to force a few more turnovers in the second, the Mustangs who were having an awful shooting night from deep eventually put their heads down and began attacking the basket, allowing them to cut the lead to three points.
Simeon, appearing to be the more talented team began to regain their focus going into the third quarter, led by forward Talen Horton-Tucker who had several layups and trips to the free throw line early. The Simeon press stayed effective and forward Messiah Jones notably had several buckets inside that pushed the lead to 10.
Whitney Young remained aggressive in the final quarter, while both teams continued to struggle from the three-point line. Simeon had a good amount of fast break buckets while the Mustangs got in the bonus early. Ultimately not being able to get the stops they needed and turnovers was what did the Mustangs in and allowed the Wolverines to advance to the championship game Sunday.
While winning by 13 points sounded nice, Simeon head coach Robert Smith wasn’t too impressed by the sloppy game by his team.
“It was the second worst game we’ve played all year. It just was a terrible game on our end. I thought defensively we were good. Offensively we were terrible.”.
Walking in to Sunday’s matchup against the 24-3 Orr Spartans who had just knocked off Curie High School Friday night lead by guard Chase Adams, the Wolverines seemed to have a renewed focus that the bright lights of a championship game would definitely bring out.
“I just had to keep my mind straight and keep my composure,” Horton-Tucker told the Chicago Tribune. “We just wanted to play. They came looking for us and they found us.”
Even with their focus renewed, the Wolverines shot only 40% from the field to start the game. Orr was made several three pointers and had more success getting to the free throw line giving them a 16-14 lead, which sent a firm reminder to the Wolverines that simply wanting to win the city championship wasn’t going to be enough.
Living up to the billing of a championship game, both teams showed their resiliency in the second quarter. The Spartans weren’t great from the field, but made the buckets they needed to, while the Wolverines raised their aggressiveness to find themselves going to the free throw stripe twice as much as their opponent.
Going into the third with a tie game, the question was who would flinch first, and Simeon’s lead man, Horton-Tucker made sure Orr would be the one to falter.
Knocking down three straight three pointers in the third, Horton Tucker tipped the scales heavily in Simeon’s favor, giving Simeon the biggest lead of the game 50-43.
“Today when we needed the best player on the court to step up he did that. He put us on his back and got us over the hump. That is what you do if you are the Player of the Year.” said Smith to the Chicago tribune.
Not even attempting a three pointer in the fourth, the Wolverines elected to use their size and defensive prowess to hold off the Spartans who refused to quit, but ended up coming up short 59-69, giving the Wolverines the three-peat in city titles. Horton-Tucker finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
“At Simeon it is city and state championship or bust. We won city the last two years. I just want to win state.” Said Horton Tucker.
As the Wolverines sit atop many polls and power rankings for the class 4A playoffs set to start in a few days, the Wolverines have some time to recover and refocus. With Orr, Curie and Whitney Young, all victims of the Wolverines, ranked second third and fourth respectively, it would still be foolish for Simeon to assume anything will be given to them in this next run.
The biggest thing for the Wolverines is to play up to their own talent as opposed to letting content seep in, but they definitely have the makeup of a team capable of taking state.
Sun-Times Announces All-City Team
The Chicago Sun-Times and lead prep reporter Michael O’Brien released their All-City boys basketball team for the 2017-18 season on Friday, to no surprise it is topped by leading area 2018 class-men Ayo Dosunmu of Morgan Park and Talen Horton-Tucker of Simeon on the first team.
We feel compelled to celebrate here at WARR as well as Morgan Taylor of Marist, brother of former D & Davis Show contributor Melvin Taylor, was also named to the first team after a dazzling senior season. Morgan was mostly unheralded entering the season but reporters like O’Brien caught on early to his difference-making play for the Southwest Side Catholic School, which was reeling from some key contributors transferring to other schools in the city.
As buzz around him continued to grow louder, Morgan gained notice from the McDonald’s All-American Game as a candidate for that national showcase, but he fell short of the game as did all the other leading Chicago-area prep candidates.
Regardless of where they’re ranked nationally, Chicago’s top prep players can be proud of surviving and thriving in another tough season in one of America’s most competitive areas. Indeed, four of the first teamers — including Orr’s Dannie Smith and Javon Freeman of Whitney Young — were all playing in the city’s Final Four last weekend and most of the All-City team figures to have good odds in State competition beginning on Monday, including the three selections from Simeon, two from Whitney Young, and three each from Orr and Morgan Park.
Player, School, Position, Height, Year
Ayo Dosunmu, Morgan Park, G, 6-4, Sr.
Javon Freeman, Young, G, 6-3, Sr.
Talen Horton-Tucker, Simeon, F, 6-5, Sr.
Dannie Smith, Orr, F, 6-5, Sr.
Morgan Taylor, Marist, G, 6-3, Sr.
Chase Adams, Orr, G, 5-8, Sr.
Fred Cleveland, Leo, G, 5-8, Jr.
Perry Cowan, DePaul Prep, F, 6-4, Jr.
Raekwon Drake, Orr, F, 6-5, Sr.
Messiah Jones, Simeon, F, 6-5, Sr.
DaChaun Anderson, Leo, F, 6-7, Jr.
Kejuan Clements, Simeon, G, 6-2, Jr.
Toraze Dobbs, Uplift, F, 6-6, Sr.
Markese Jacobs, Uplift, G, 6-0, Jr.
Adam Miller, Morgan Park, G, 6-4, So.
Cam Burrell, Morgan Park, F, 6-6, Sr.
Xavier Castaneda, Young, G, 6-2, Sr.
George Conditt, Corliss, F, 6-10, Sr.
Treavon Martin, Curie, F, 6-8, Sr.
Terrence Shannon, Lincoln Park, G, 6-6, Sr.
Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio; Justin Dukes is a Chicago-based sports writer, follow him on Twitter @1kingzdream