DRIVE: Whitney Young sets sights on state championship

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DRIVE: Whitney Young sets sights on state championship
March 1, 2014, 1:15 am
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Kristen Harper

After a thrilling, down-to-the-wire, quadruple-overtime, 69-66 loss to the Curie Condors in the city championship matchup Feb. 21 at Chicago State University, the Whitney Young Dolphins took a few days off to refocus and rest their already wounded limbs. One player in particular, who suffered an inadvertent blow to the head in the quarterfinal matchup against Morgan Park, was well deserving of that time off after knocking down the 3-point shot that pushed the championship game into the first of four overtimes.

“Paul (White) would whisper in my ear, ‘It’s your time now,’ and when we got back to the bench we were down three, all the guys wanted me to take that shot,” senior guard Miles Reynolds recounted before taking the floor for practice on Thursday. “They all had faith in me. Coach Ty (Slaughter) drew up a great play with me coming off a double screen along the baseline, and I just squared up and it went through.”

But when some of the players were questioned about maybe having a sour taste in their mouths after receiving their second place medals, they remained positive knowing the performance they exhibited was one of sheer grit, heart and soul.

“It was a rough loss,” sophomore guard Rodney Herenton Jr. said. “But we gave 110-percent effort. We played our hearts out. Unfortunately we came up short. But it was a loss where we did nothing wrong, we just came up short.”

[RELATED: CPS strips Curie of Public League title]

Reynolds chimed in saying, “We all knew how well we played. We all played our hardest. We had some unfortunate things happen, with foul trouble with Jahlil (Okafor) and things like that. But at the end of the day our heads were still high because we were proud of our efforts.”

This Dolphins’ team has stood true to all expectations this season, gaining national wins over the top-10 teams and proving their determination to win in many crunch situations. And even though the city championship did not go their way, their feelings on the season are high, letting their accomplishments thus far shine despite the rough loss.

“I think it’s been a pretty good season,” senior guard Erwin Henry said with a reassuring tone. “Finishing city, we made it all the way to the championship, we didn’t win but I think our guys fought hard. We went into four overtimes. Everybody played well. We did the best we could. Jahlil fouled out early, but we still stuck together and played together as a team. I think it was good. In the locker room we couldn’t be too sad because everybody fought so hard even though it was an 'L.'  But it happens. We finished 21-6, I believe. I think that is a pretty good job on the season with all the guys we have. A lot of people had to step up, like Skylar Nash and myself. So being a senior and it being my last year here, I think the season has been pretty good so far.”

“We have had our ups and downs this year, but it has been a great year for us. We started off kind of shaky, but since 2014 we have taken off and every game has been great,” Herenton Jr. said.

[RELATED: Breaking down the fantastic four in Class 4A]

Slaughter and Okafor dubbed the calendar year 2014 "The Year of Greatness" following the team's third-place loss at the Les Schwab Invitational in late December. Since, the Dolphins have showed an ability to remain faithful in each other’s talents and not allow shortcomings to impact their ultimate goal of winning a state championship come March.

The Dolphins are set to begin their state playoff run with home-court advantage against the winner of No. 14 Reavis and No. 19 Kelly in the regional semifinal. If Young comes out victorious in that game, it will move on to the regional finals against either No. 7 De La Salle or No. 10 Brother Rice, again having home-court advantage.

And despite there being so much on the line, especially for Young's trio of seniors, Reynolds remains calm and points toward what has brought his squad this far.

“We are just going to continue to do the things we do well. All season we have been consistent. So we just have to stay consistent and stay focused,” Reynolds said.

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