By Joe Henricksen

Six reasons to watch Simeon-Stevenson

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The masses around the state believed the state championship was played eight days ago when Simeon knocked off Whitney Young in the championship game of the Argo Sectional.

Those that doubted the validity of Simeon-Young looked forward to the Simeon-Proviso East
rematch in last night's state semifinal.

And anyone else just wishes Simeon and Morgan Park, which is playing in the 3A state championship game Saturday afternoon, would go at it one more time after splitting two games this season.

The people sitting perfectly fine with all those thoughts? The Stevenson Patriots.

Coach Pat Ambrose's team will head into the 4A state final as a major underdog. If we're talking Vegas, Stevenson would be a double-digit underdog.

Stevenson's biggest stage thus far was the Proviso West Holiday Tournament in December, where it went 3-2 with losses to Oswego (72-66) and Morgan Park (67-52). However, this is a different Patriots team than the one nearly two months ago. That's what happens when you're playing with sophomores. By the time March rolls around, those second-year kids with little to no experience are sophomores in name only.

Stevenson hasn't lost a single game since the holidays, ripping off 18 consecutive wins. For the most part, they have dominated foes during that stretch. There is a budding confidence with this team, but it also knows they are up against a different animal than the Edwardsvilles, Boylans, Mundeleins and North Chicagos of the world.

Here are six reasons for basketball fans in Illinois to watch Simeon-Stevenson in the Class 4A state championship game.

1. A chance to see history
It's not every year you can say you watched a team playing for a fourth straight state championship in the final game of the high school basketball season. The actual answer to that question is once -- Peoria Manual in 1997. Simeon's quest to match Manual's state record four-peat now comes down to one game.

2. Ultimate individual winners
Ironically, the four-year run put together by Peoria Manual in the mid-1990s and Simeon's current run has one undeniable parallel: Jabari Parker and Sergio McClain. Both were instrumental players all season long as freshmen for state championship teams; Parker averaged 9.2 points a game and McClain 7.6 points a game as freshmen. With a win, Parker can match McClain's ultimate winner status at the state level.

Don't forget Simeon senior guard Kendrick Nunn, who also played a small role for a state championship team as a freshman three years ago. Nunn and Manual's Marcus Griffin, who is also a four-time state champion, were overshadowed first year players by their big-named freshmen teammates.

3. Jabari Parker's final game
Selfishly, the Hoops Report has waited all season for the Jabari Parker we've seen over the past few weeks. After dealing with a slow recovery from a summer foot injury, that player is here. He's been dominant, impressive and the difference-making player all would expect from an individual who has received more attention and media hype than any player in state history.

Now all fans have one last chance to enjoy one of the best talents to come through the state of Illinois. Watch closely how Parker impacts games in so many different ways with his combination of size, skill and basketball smarts.

4. Jalen Brunson
The Hoops Report may not have spoken any truer words this season than with this headline and story back in December: Jalen Brunson is that good. Since then, the Hoops Report has repeatedly stated there is no other sophomore in the state who is as polished or greatly impacts a game more than the Stevenson star. And there is no sophomore who is asked to do more or has as much responsibility as the smooth, heady 6-1 lefty point guard.

The kid is special and fun to watch. And though he's not the same player as Jon Scheyer, the former Glenbrook North icon who led his team to Peoria as a freshman, his unique, cerebral qualities for such a young player are very similar. He's also shown he can put his team on his back, averaging over 24 points a game in Stevenson's last seven games.

5. Sneak peek to the 2013-2014 season
As it stands right now, when next season begins in eight months your preseason No. 1 team will be Whitney Young. We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but Stevenson could very well be No. 2.

Superstar sophomore Jalen Brunson isn't the only talent returning for coach Pat Ambrose. While playing with a lower profile, sophomore Connor Cashaw (16.2 ppg) has been terrific all season. However, his play in super-sectional and state semifinal wins have opened people's eyes. Plus, junior Matt Morrissey (8 ppg) will be back with a pair of sophomores, 6-4 Parker Nichols and emerging 6-3 Cameron Green.

6. David vs. Goliath
Who doesn't like the David vs. Goliath story when it comes to sports?

This is a really good Stevenson team with a star player that has been ranked since January, earned a No. 1 sectional seed and was expected to reach Peoria when the brackets were analyzed in February.

But this is Simeon. Nationally-ranked Simeon. Mighty Simeon, winners of three straight state championships with McDonald's All-American Jabari Parker. Ridiculously talented Simeon, with Illinois recruits Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate, Dayton-bound Kendall Pollard and three or four other players who will or could see the floor that will all play Division I basketball.

A win by Stevenson Saturday night would be the biggest state championship game upset in recent memory, bigger than Schaumburg knocking off Eddy Curry and Thornwood in 2001.

Hoops Report Pick: Simeon 58, Stevenson 47

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on March 16, 2013 9:53 AM.

Class 4A Peoria primer and picks was the previous entry in this blog.

Two for NU as coaching search begins is the next entry in this blog.

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