Simeon pulls away from Stevenson in second half
PEORIA Saturday Mar 16 2013 Stevenson's Matthew Morriessy (20) attempts to keep control from Simeon's Edward Morrow (33) during the state basketball finals game. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
PEORIA — Simeon, the Class 4A city Goliath, was playing to secure its place in boys basketball history Saturday night.
In its way, Stevenson, which was uninterested in being another Wolverine championship-game victim and instead desiring a state title of its own.
For one half, Stevenson stuck with Simeon. But a seven-point halftime deficit turned into a 58-40 final as the Wolverines ended the Patriots’ magical season and won their fourth straight 4A title in front of a loud and boisterous crowd inside Carver Arena.
Stevenson knew going in that matching up with Simeon seniors Jabari Parker, Kendall Pollard and Russell Woods would be a tremendous challenge.
The Patriots came out in a box-and-one on Parker with sophomore Cameron Green not letting the Duke-bound power forward out of his sight.
Standing 6-foot-8 to Green’s 6-3, Parker was able to muscle his way to easy inside baskets. When Stevenson forced him outside, Parker knocked down jumpers. Still, the Patriots trailed just 31-24 at the break despite Parker scoring 11 points and Pollard adding eight on 4-of-4 shooting.
“It wasn’t one individual on Parker, it was a team effort to collapse on him,” Stevenson senior forward Jack Duffy said. “Our shots were falling more in the first half.”
On offense, the Patriots (29-5) knew they would need to rely on sophomore guard Jalen Brunson’s brilliance and hot 3-point shooting. Stevenson had shot 10-of-18 from long range in its 4A semifinal win over Edwardsville on Friday.
When senior guard Andy Stempel nailed a 3-pointer with 6:34 remaining in the first half Saturday, the Patriots were down just one, 16-15. Unlike most opponents, Simeon (30-3) featured tall, long guards who disrupted the timing of the Patriots’ shooters. Stempel would make just two more 3s.
For the game, Stevenson shot just 5-of-22 from beyond the arc.
Simeon’s size presented another problem. Whenever Brunson, sophomore Connor Cashaw or junior Matt Morrissey would ball fake and drive, the looming presence of Parker and Woods forced Stevenson players to adjust their shots.
“You want to ask me questions about Simeon? They are an all-star team. Literally and figuratively,” Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said.
Saturday was Stevenson’s first ever state title appearance and with Brunson, Cashaw, Morrissey and Green back next season, another trip to Peoria is possible.
“I really want to get back down here. We have to learn from this game,” said Brunson, who finished with 14 points. “If we do that, we’ll be in a great position to win a state title.”