Whitney Young advances despite Brunson's historic night

Whitney Young advances despite Brunson's historic night
March 21, 2014, 9:15 pm
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It was the storybook matchup of Illinois' top two teams and top two players on Saturday night as Stevenson and Whitney Young -- the state's two best teams regardless of class -- met in the Class 4A semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria with a shot at the Class 4A state title on the line.

The battle of the Dolphins and Patriots also meant that the state's two best players this season, Whitney Young senior center Jahlil Okafor and Stevenson junior point guard Jalen Brunson, would go head-to-head as well.

Although Brunson finished with 56 points in one of the best performances the state tournament has ever seen, Okafor and the Dolphins had the last laugh as the Duke commit also had a big outing of 33 points and 14 rebounds to lead Whitney Young to a 75-68 win on Friday night.

The Dolphins advance to the Class 4A title game to face Benet, which beat Edwardsville 38-33 in the other semifinal game.

Despite Brunson's ridiculous 56-point outing, in which the lefty went 16-for-30 from the field, 7-for-14 from the three-point line and 17-for-23 from the free-throw line, the Patriots fell short as no other player on the roster tallied more than four points. Junior guard Connor Cashaw struggled to 2-for-11 shooting from the field and finished with four points and six rebounds while junior guard Matt Johnson and senior forward Matt Morrissey rounded out Stevenson's scoring with four points each, as well.

[DRIVE: Whitney Young closing in on state championship]

Okafor was a brutally efficient 13-for-15 from the field and 7-for-10 from the free-throw line and the McDonald's All-American's and-one dunk with under a minute left sealed Whitney Young's win and gave Okafor a signature moment in Peoria. Whitney Young senior forward Paul White also added 15 points, six rebounds and three assists while senior guards Erwin Henry (11 points) and Miles Reynolds (10 points) also finished in double-figures for the Dolphins.

Whitney Young held a significant size advantage over Stevenson and outrebounded the Patriots, 32-24, on the evening while also outscoring them in the paint with a 48-22 advantage.

The Dolphins (28-5) advances to their first Class 4A state championship game since 2010, when they fell to Simeon, 51-36, in the title game. The Dolphins last won a state title in 2009 with a 69-66 win over Waukegan for the Class 4A state title.

Stevenson (31-2) falls short of a state title in Class 4A for the second straight season after falling to Simeon in last year's state championship game, 58-40.

With four starters returning next season though -- including Brunson, Cashaw and Johnson at guard -- Stevenson will be an early favorite to return to Peoria in 2015.

Whitney Young will be the heavy favorite in Saturday night's Class 4A title game thanks to its national schedule and the play of seniors Okafor, White and Reynolds.