Bears

Back-to-back: Simeon captures 4A Championship

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Back-to-back: Simeon captures 4A Championship

Saturday, March 19, 2011
Posted: 11:26 p.m.

By Michael O'Brien
YourSeason.com

PEORIA Simeon coach Robert Smiths reaction after the buzzer sounded on his second consecutive state title was muted. He shrugged his shoulders and shook some hands. It has become routine.

The Wolverines have dominated the state since Smith took over the program from his mentor Bob

Simeon has won four state titles and finished second once in his seven seasons. This is his second time winning back-to-back big school titles. Hes won with and without Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker and is widely recognized as one of the top coaches in the country.

There has been talk of Smith leaving Simeon for assistant and even head coaching jobs in the collegiate ranks, but hes staying put at Simeon for now.

Its been a great run, Smith said. It came soon (in his career), sooner than most. But it comes from hardwork from my entire staff. It never gets old. This was probably the hardest one because everyone expected us to do it from Day 1. Last year was fun because nobody expected us to do what we did.

Sophomore Jabari Parker didnt play a major role in the Wolverines win last year, after suffering an injury during the game. But he was clearly the star on Saturday scoring 12 points to lead Simeon to a 48-39 win over Warren in the Class 4A state championship game at Carver Arena.

We just believe in each other, Parker said. We are a team that prides itself on the way we play and being thorough.

The win wasnt a command performance and it wasnt particularly pretty. However it was brutally effective. Warren never held the lead. Nathan Boothes jumper to open the second half made it 24-22, but the Wolverines (30-2) just kept extending the lead after that.

Junior Steve Taylor, who didnt play in the title game last season, dominated the glass. He finished with eight points and 11 rebounds. Rashawn McElrath added eight points and nine rebounds. McElrath was a key cog on last seasons championship team.

There was no way I was going to not finish this game and get the repeat, McElrath said. Im a senior. I feel good to be a part of the Simeon program and I can look back on my career and know I was a part of something special.

Darius Paul led the Blue Devils (31-4) with 11 points. Brandon Ferguson added nine points and Jeremiah Jackson scored eight and grabbed seven rebounds.

Simeon jumped out to a 19-9 lead, as Warrens offense was sloppy from the outset and slow to find any tempo. Paul and Boothe got more comfortable late in the half as Warren closed the second quarter with an 11-5 run and trailed Simeon 24-20 at the half. Paul scored six points in the run and Boothe used his bulky 6-8 frame to get his first basket in the post.

We didnt make our shots, Warren coach Chuck Ramsey said. We held them to 48 and if we could have done that I would have liked our chances."

A three from Ferguson with 31 seconds to play cut the Simeon lead 43-38, but as they have throughout the playoffs, the Wolverines put away the victory at the free-throw line, shooting 5-for-6 from the stripe to seal the win.

Warrens size was expected to give Simeon some problems, and it actually did for a half. The Blue Devils outrebounded the Wolverines in the first half, but Simeon dominated the glass in the second half, finishing with a 35-26 advantage.

Its Simeons sixth state tile overall and the domination may continue, as Parker, Taylor and Kendrick Nunn all return for the Wolverines next season and they will likely begin the season as the top-ranked team in the state.

Maybe we can do it again next season, Smith said. We want to have the most state titles. We arent going to stop. We bring back a great core next season.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.