By Joe Henricksen
When was the last time a defending state champion entered the season with as high of expectations as this year's Simeon team? Has there ever been a team that came into a season more heavily favored to repeat as state champs?
Even with the great Peoria Manual teams of the 1990s -- you know, those four-peat Rams from Peoria -- there was always that talented group from Thornton lurking, raising doubt and questions regarding another Manual state championship.
The Hoops Report takes a look back at several past state champions who had the best and most realistic chance of repeating over the past 30 years. There were several repeat champions but plenty of repeat opportunities didn't go exactly as planned.
QUINCY • 1981 State Champs
1982 Repeat Attempt: Lost in state quarterfinals
The 1981 Quincy team, one of the greatest in state history, went 33-0 and won a state title behind the trio of Bruce Douglas, Dennis Douglas and 6-10 Michael Payne. Although Payne graduated and moved on to Iowa, the state still watched Quincy impressively rumble through the 1981-82 season unbeaten with the Douglas brothers leading the way. But Mendel Catholic stunned the 31-0 Blue Devils in the state semifinals in one of the most memorable games in state tournament history.
SIMEON • 1984 State Champs
1985 Repeat Attempt: Lost in state quarterfinals
Simeon was everyone's pick to repeat as state champs, but the tragic death of Ben Wilson, the nation's No. 1 ranked player, in November likely prevented the Wolverines from winning their second state title. Nonetheless, behind star transfer Nick Anderson and the likes of David Knight, Ervin Small and Eric David, Simeon was 23-1 and ranked No. 2 in the state in the final regular-season polls. Simeon beat Carver in the city final to get back to the Elite Eight. But Springfield Lanphier, led by Ed Horton, knocked off the defending state champs, 52-48, in the state quarterfinals to end Simeon's repeat attempt.
KING • 1986 State Champs
1987 Repeat Attempt: Lost in state championship
Even with the return of All-American Marcus Liberty, who averaged 36 points a game in the final four state tournament games in 1987, King could not repeat. The Jaguars lost 79-62 to a big, talented and athletic East St. Louis Lincoln team featuring 6-6 Chris Rodgers, 6-6 James Harris and 6-9 LaPhonso Ellis in the state final.
EAST ST. LOUIS LINCOLN • 1987 State Champs
1988 Repeat Attempt: Repeated as state champions
After capturing the 1987 state title behind junior LaPhonso Ellis, one of the top players in the country, everyone throughout Illinois predicted either East St. Louis Lincoln or Peoria to win the 1988 state championship. Peoria fell in the sectional final, while ESL Lincoln won its third straight state title. The Tigers' seven state tournament games leading up to the title game win over Eric Anderson and St. Francis De Sales included these scores: 90-46, 86-59, 88-59, 77-45, 69-41, 80-56 and 67-50.
EAST ST. LOUIS LINCOLN • 1988 State Champs
1989 Repeat Attempt: Repeated as state champions
Of the three straight state titles won by East St. Louis Lincoln in the late 1980s, this was the toughest. most dramatic and improbable. LaPhonso Ellis had graduated and moved on to Notre Dame. And the Tigers lost to both Chicago Marshall and Simeon in the regular season. But star Cuonzo Martin, along with the backcourt of Chris McKinney and Vincent Jackson, returned for a run at a three-peat. ESL Lincoln stunned East Aurora at the buzzer in the quarterfinals, winning 72-70, and edged King 60-57 in the semis. In the title game, coach Bennie Lewis' club beat Peoria Central in a triple overtime classic.
PROVISO EAST • 1991 State Champs
1992 Repeat Attempt: Repeated as state champions
The Pirates graduated the "Three Amigos" in Michael Finley, Sherrell Ford and Donnie Boyce, but coach Bill Hitt's club still entered the 1992 season preseason ranked No. 1. And the Pirates lived up to it. Behind guard Kenny Davis, Ray Gay and Jamal Robinson, the Pirates got by Collinsville and Richard Keene in the quarterfinals, 53-51, and went on to win back-to-back state titles--this time with a perfect 33-0 record.
KING • 1993 State Champs
1994 Repeat Attempt: Lost in supersectional (Public League final)
After crushing Rockford Guilford 79-42 in the 1993 state title game behind senior twin towers Rashard Griffith and Thomas Hamilton and finishing 32-0, King set out to repeat and add to a eye-opening win streak in 1994. With Michael Hermon, one of the real underrated prep stars of the last 30 years, King rolled through its schedule and headed into the city championship game and Sweet Sixteen with a 29-0 record (61 consecutive victories) and ranked No. 1 in the state. King met Westinghouse, which it beat in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament title game that season. But Westinghouse, led by Damion Dantzler and Mark Miller, stunned King in the city final, 59-58, to advance to the Elite Eight.
PEORIA MANUAL • 1994 State Champs
1995 Repeat Attempt: Repeated as state champions
Manual lost a star from the 1994 state title team in Brandon Hughes, but the Rams remained loaded the following year. The names of Sergio McClain and Marcus Griffin were becoming familiar as a pair of super sophomores, but the 1994-95 team was fueled by Willie Coleman and Ivan Watson. The Rams pulled out a tight 62-60 win over Joliet in the semis and beat Thornton in the final for a second straight state title.
PEORIA MANUAL • 1995 State Champs
1996 Repeat Attempt: Repeated as state champions
The buzz started to heighten surrounding the Peoria Manual program as three underclassmen -- juniors Sergio McClain and Marcus Griffin and sophomore Frank Williams -- were set to reload and lead the Rams to a third consecutive state title. They did just that in 1996, beating Thornton in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the state championship. And they would be back for more.
PEORIA MANUAL • 1996 State Champs
1997 Repeat Attempt: Repeated as state champions
Everyone from Carbondale to Danville to Rock Island to Rockford to Chicago had their eyes on Peoria Manual's quest for four straight titles during the 1996-1997 season--and also hoping the highly-anticipated matchup between Manual and Thornton would materialize. Sergio McClain, Marcus Griffin and junior Frank Williams met Thornton once again -- this time a 31-0 Thornton team -- in the state semifinals. And for the third straight season, Manual beat Thornton and went on to pull out a 47-43 win over West Aurora in the title game.
PEORIA CENTRAL • 2003 State Champs
2004 Repeat Attempt: Repeated as state champions
While the loss of guard Daniel Ruffin off the 2003 state championship team was significant, Shaun Livingston, who would be a NBA lottery pick just three months later, returned for Peoria Central, along with highly-regarded Brandon Lee. Coach Chuck Buescher's Lions won a second straight state championship, beating Julian Wright and Homewood-Flossmoor in a highly-anticipated final.
GLENBROOK NORTH • 2005 State Champs
2006 Repeat Attempt: Lost in state quarterfinals
The defending state champs returned Jon Scheyer from its state title team, along with big men Zach Kelly and Jon Radtke. The loss of standout guard Sean Wallis, however, proved to be too big. Glenbrook North did have another terrific season and reached the Elite Eight, but the Spartans fell in the state quarterfinals to Simeon and Derrick Rose, 61-44, as Scheyer was "held" to 18 points in the loss.
SIMEON • 2006 State Champs
2007 Repeat Attempt: Repeated as state champions
Simeon entered the 2006-2007 season ranked No. 1 and, much like this year's Simeon team, heavily favored to repeat as state champs. Coach Rob Smith welcomed back the heart and soul of the team in All-American Derrick Rose and Tim Flowers, while Kevin Johnson blossomed as a senior. The Wolverines pounded cruised in March, winning every game it played in state tournament play by double digits. Simeon beat St. Rita 100-65 in the regional final, won two sectional games by the scores of 61-36 and 77-32, and beat Evan Turner, Demetri McCamey and St. Joe's 75-61 in the supersectional. Simeon rolled O'Fallon 77-54 in the state title game behind 35 points and 12 rebounds from Flowers. D-Rose's stat line? 2 points, 0-of-7 from the field with 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 4 steals.
SIMEON • 2007 State Champs
2008 Repeat Attempt: Lost in Class 3A state championship
Derrick Rose and Tim Flowers graduated, but the Wolverines welcomed Leo transfer Stan Simpson. With a backcourt of Kenyon Smith and Lazeric Jones, along with Simpson, Simeon reached Peoria again in the first year of the four-class system, losing to Marshall, 69-61, in the 3A title game.
WHITNEY YOUNG • 2009 State Champs
2010 Repeat Attempt: Lost in Class 4A state championship
The Dolphins did lose the senior backcourt of Chris Colvin and Marcus Jordan from the 2009 state championship team, but the expectations remained high the following year. Senior guards Ahmad Starks and Anthony Johnson, emerging junior Sam Thompson and heralded freshman Tommy Hamilton led coach Tyrone Slaughter's team back to Peoria. After knocking off Jereme Richmond and Waukegan in the semis, Young fell to Simeon, 51-36, in the 4A state championship.
SIMEON • 2010 State Champs
2011 Repeat Attempt: Repeated as state champions
A strong, tough-minded senior class returned from the previous season's state championship team, while the young talent in the program--junior Steve Taylor and sophomores Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn--blossomed. The Wolverines were the preseason pick to repeat as state champs, and coach Robert Smith's club did just that by edging Glenbard East in the state semis and beating Warren in the state title game.