Wednesday's, 72-64 win for Whitney Young over Simeon in the Class 4A Marist sectional semifinal represented a clash of Illinois' two best high school basketball programs. But it also saw what could be a passing of the torch between champions in Class 4A from the Wolverines to the Dolphins.
Simeon is coming off of four consecutive Class 4A state championships in boy’s basketball and the Wolverines are the gold standard of basketball in the state of Illinois. Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker -- both household names among the national, and in some cases international, basketball community -- both won championships under head coach Robert Smith at Simeon.
Although Rose wasn't a part of this latest Wolverine championship run from 2010 to 2013, he did win two of his own in '06 and '07.
Parker, however, is just one of many great players to come from Simeon in the latest championship run. As a freshman at Duke this season, Parker was named a first team NCAA All-American, and at Simeon he was a member of all four state championship teams.
Other great players for the Wolverines included Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate, who are at Illinois, Kendall Pollard (Dayton), Brandon Spearman (Hawaii) and numerous others.
Those teams won 30 consecutive games in the playoffs and hadn't lost since March of 2009. Simeon won by an average margin of 23.3 points in their seven wins to win the fourth state championship last year. No team came within nine points of beating Simeon in the playoffs last season and the Wolverines ended Whitney Young's season in back-to-back years.
But now that streak is over as Simeon builds with a number of talented young players.
Although Simeon finally lost in its drive for five on Wednesday, many of its most talented players will return. Donte Ingram and Jaycee Hillsman move on, but Illinois commit and junior DJ Williams is back on the perimeter and junior forward Ed Morrow was a force during the latter part of the season. Sophomores Ben Coupet and Zachary Norvell should also improve and freshman guard Evan Gilyard showed some promise in some varsity minutes this season.
So Whitney Young got Simeon, for now, but the Wolverines will be back and strong next year.
Moving on to the Dolphins, with the win over Simeon, Whitney Young is looking like the favorite to win in Class 4A. With Jahlil Okafor, Paul White and Miles Reynolds all playing well, they're the best team in the state and senior Erwin Henry and sophomores Rodney Herenten and Skylar Nash have all given significant playoff minutes against good competition.
Because Whitney Young played a national schedule and took some lumps early in the year, they're stronger now. They're a much more cohesive and balanced team when their role players are stepping up, and those guys are playing very good ball for Whitney Young. Henry and Herenten combined for 32 points against Simeon.
With a double-team threat like Okafor, a talented do-it-all forward like Paul White and a perimeter threat like Miles Reynolds, this team is really playing great basketball right now and this trio has played a lot of basketball together. Simeon played its best basketball of the season for 20 minutes and still took a loss to Whitney Young on Wednesday. The Dolphins are just on another level right now in Class 4A because of Okafor's inside presence.
Stevenson and Marian Catholic are both playing great ball right now but they don't have the size to contain the Dolphins on the interior this season.
As Wednesday showed, Whitney Young has passed by Simeon -- for now -- but we'll likely see this rivalry renewed in the very near future.