Back-to-back: Simeon captures 4A Championship

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Back-to-back: Simeon captures 4A Championship

Saturday, March 19, 2011
Posted: 11:26 p.m.

By Michael O'Brien
YourSeason.com

PEORIA Simeon coach Robert Smiths reaction after the buzzer sounded on his second consecutive state title was muted. He shrugged his shoulders and shook some hands. It has become routine.

The Wolverines have dominated the state since Smith took over the program from his mentor Bob

Simeon has won four state titles and finished second once in his seven seasons. This is his second time winning back-to-back big school titles. Hes won with and without Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker and is widely recognized as one of the top coaches in the country.

There has been talk of Smith leaving Simeon for assistant and even head coaching jobs in the collegiate ranks, but hes staying put at Simeon for now.

Its been a great run, Smith said. It came soon (in his career), sooner than most. But it comes from hardwork from my entire staff. It never gets old. This was probably the hardest one because everyone expected us to do it from Day 1. Last year was fun because nobody expected us to do what we did.

Sophomore Jabari Parker didnt play a major role in the Wolverines win last year, after suffering an injury during the game. But he was clearly the star on Saturday scoring 12 points to lead Simeon to a 48-39 win over Warren in the Class 4A state championship game at Carver Arena.

We just believe in each other, Parker said. We are a team that prides itself on the way we play and being thorough.

The win wasnt a command performance and it wasnt particularly pretty. However it was brutally effective. Warren never held the lead. Nathan Boothes jumper to open the second half made it 24-22, but the Wolverines (30-2) just kept extending the lead after that.

Junior Steve Taylor, who didnt play in the title game last season, dominated the glass. He finished with eight points and 11 rebounds. Rashawn McElrath added eight points and nine rebounds. McElrath was a key cog on last seasons championship team.

There was no way I was going to not finish this game and get the repeat, McElrath said. Im a senior. I feel good to be a part of the Simeon program and I can look back on my career and know I was a part of something special.

Darius Paul led the Blue Devils (31-4) with 11 points. Brandon Ferguson added nine points and Jeremiah Jackson scored eight and grabbed seven rebounds.

Simeon jumped out to a 19-9 lead, as Warrens offense was sloppy from the outset and slow to find any tempo. Paul and Boothe got more comfortable late in the half as Warren closed the second quarter with an 11-5 run and trailed Simeon 24-20 at the half. Paul scored six points in the run and Boothe used his bulky 6-8 frame to get his first basket in the post.

We didnt make our shots, Warren coach Chuck Ramsey said. We held them to 48 and if we could have done that I would have liked our chances."

A three from Ferguson with 31 seconds to play cut the Simeon lead 43-38, but as they have throughout the playoffs, the Wolverines put away the victory at the free-throw line, shooting 5-for-6 from the stripe to seal the win.

Warrens size was expected to give Simeon some problems, and it actually did for a half. The Blue Devils outrebounded the Wolverines in the first half, but Simeon dominated the glass in the second half, finishing with a 35-26 advantage.

Its Simeons sixth state tile overall and the domination may continue, as Parker, Taylor and Kendrick Nunn all return for the Wolverines next season and they will likely begin the season as the top-ranked team in the state.

Maybe we can do it again next season, Smith said. We want to have the most state titles. We arent going to stop. We bring back a great core next season.

Jimmy Butler records triple-double as Bulls beat Cavaliers again without LeBron James

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AP

Jimmy Butler records triple-double as Bulls beat Cavaliers again without LeBron James

Winning a game against a LeBron James led team has proven to be an easier task than most for the Chicago Bulls in the last couple regular seasons.

And winning without James has proven to be a herculean task for the Cleveland Cavaliers since his return in 2014.

So putting those two events together seemed to produce an inevitable result at Quicken Loans Arena, with James out due to illness, as the Bulls pulled away from the Cavaliers 117-99 Saturday night.

The win marks the fourth straight for the Bulls, pulling them over .500 for the first time in nearly two months and they lead the season series 3-0 over the NBA Champions.

Of course, if James were healthy perhaps the Cavaliers would look more cohesive but without him, only Kyrie Irving was in double figures amongst the starters for most of the night. Irving was unguardable with 34 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

After the lead rose to 20, Irving went to work to get the Cavaliers back in it by scoring eight in the quarter and cutting the lead in half with 2:30 left. But without James, the Bulls were able to hold off the Cavaliers with baskets from 
Cristiano Felicio and Nikola Mirotic, who had his second straight big game with 14 points and 10 boards.

A third-quarter flurry from the Bulls gave them some breathing room after a back-and-forth 24 minutes. The Cavs threatened to blow the game open with a 65-59 lead to start the third but the Bulls quickly turned the tables, getting stops and leaking out for fast breaks.

Dwyane Wade corralled weak-side rebounds and popped it ahead to Butler and Bobby Portis for layups. 

Butler then hit two triples in succession to give the Bulls a 76-67 lead.

He struggled from the field but hit four triples on his way to 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and Wade was one rebound short—one Felicio rebound attempt with seconds remaining, from getting a triple-double with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in 34 minutes

But the 3-point shooting has been a welcome addition since the trade of Doug McDermott, their best 3-point shooter.

Denzel Valentine followed up his sterling showing Friday night with another competent and confident performance, hitting three triples to score 11 and at least competing on the defensive end.

Cameron Payne made his debut as a Bull and hit two triples in the first half, both passes off the ball as he hasn't had enough time to grasp the offense, only going through a morning walkthrough with the coaching staff after the team arrived in Cleveland.

All in all, the Bulls had their ninth game with 10 or more triples, hitting 15.

Northwestern's sluggish stretch continues with loss at Indiana, how does it affect NCAA tournament hopes?

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AP

Northwestern's sluggish stretch continues with loss at Indiana, how does it affect NCAA tournament hopes?

On the verge of being in the NCAA tournament isn't the same as being in the NCAA tournament.

Northwestern has fans sweating as what looked like a surefire first-time trip to the Big Dance is getting increasingly bubblicious with each game.

The Wildcats are in some kind of a rut at the worst possible time, with losses in five of their last seven games. It's a stretch that could potentially take them from what seemed to be "lock" status to the bouncy NCAA tournament bubble real quick.

The latest blow to Northwestern's chances came Saturday night in Bloomington, with Indiana stealing a 63-62 victory in an odd game.

The Cats looked good through the middle part of the first half, finally getting some offensive contributions from Scottie Lindsey in the leading scorer's third game back from a four-game absence. Lindsey scored nine first-half points, getting a pair of steals that turned into breakaway dunks and knocking down a 3-pointer. Everything seemed to be clicking for Northwestern, which built a 12-point lead, before Indiana exploded on a 22-0 run to close the first half. That stretch featured four 3-pointers, including Devonte Green's half-court, buzzer-beating heave that will make all the highlight shows.

The Cats, though, responded, dominating for much of the second half. A 10-point halftime deficit was long gone thanks to Northwestern outscoring Indiana by a 23-6 margin through the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Cats' defense kept the Hoosiers to just three made baskets during that time. Northwestern held onto its lead, though Indiana did start to chip away. Still the Cats were ahead by eight with three minutes to play thanks to a big Bryant McIntosh banked-in 3-pointer.

A McIntosh free throw with 93 seconds left made it a seven-point game, but the Hoosiers scored the next eight points, clamping down on the defensive end and taking advantage of the Cats' misses at the ends of uneventful possessions. James Blackmon Jr.'s 3-pointer made it a two-point game with 38 seconds left, and after another empty Northwestern possession, Thomas Bryant got a game-tying dunk at the other end. Lindsey fouled Bryant on the play, and the Indiana center got a fortunate bounce on the free throw, giving the Hoosiers a one-point lead with two seconds left. McIntosh's half-court shot hit the rim but didn't fall, and the Cats lost in agonizing fashion.

Northwestern held a nine-point scoring advantage after halftime, but it was just barely not enough. The Cats shot 39 percent from the field on the game and were 4-for-18 from 3-point range. Northwestern scored 16 points off 16 Indiana turnovers, but the Hoosiers won on the boards and had a 21-7 edge in bench scoring.

McIntosh finished with 22 points, though he was 8-for-18 from the field. Lindsey had 13 points but was 6-for-15. Dererk Pardon had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Vic Law again struggled, scoring just four points on 1-for-7 shooting.

Though not allowing that 22-0 run would have been the best way to avoid defeat, a lot of attention will be paid to Lindsey's mental error of fouling Bryant in the game's final seconds. Northwestern has talked all year long about this year being different, how this team has found a way to win — or perhaps a way not to lose — the close games they've lost in years past. But this looked more similar to that type of outcome, and it couldn't have come at a worse time.

There are just two games remaining on the regular-season schedule for the Cats: two home games against Michigan and Purdue. The Wolverines are hot, playing as well as just about anyone in the Big Ten right now after scoring a double-digit win over the Boilermakers on Saturday. The Boilers are still in first place in the conference standings. The next two games present an incredible challenge for a Northwestern team that's having trouble finding its footing at season's end.

Did Saturday's loss cost Northwestern a spot in the NCAA tournament field? According to the bracket-projection people, the Cats' spot has been secure since the win at Wisconsin. Even this week's loss at Illinois was followed by a video from ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi in which he assured Northwestern fans that the Cats would be going dancing.

But this has the potential to be a crash-and-burn finish to the regular season. Should games against Michigan and Purdue end in losses, Northwestern would be looking at a four-game losing streak with losses in seven of its last nine games. That would put an incredible amount of pressure on the team's trip to Washington for the Big Ten Tournament if the Cats are sitting on the bubble a week and a half from now.

Northwestern is still looking for its school-record 21st win. For a long while during the second half Saturday, it looked like it would come in Bloomington. Then it didn't.

For a long while, it's looked like Northwestern would get into the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history, too.