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Simeon, Proviso East eye state final

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Simeon, Proviso East eye state final

Simeon vs. Proviso East.

It smacks of Peoria Manual vs. Thornton, North Carolina vs. Duke, Bulls vs. Heat, Lakers vs. Celtics, Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson and LeBron James vs. Cleveland.

If Simeon and Proviso East reach the Class 4A championship game on Saturday night in Peoria, it will mark the first time since 1996 and only the third time in history that the two top-rated teams will meet for the state title.

Of course, they have to survive semifinal assignments on Friday night. Proviso East (31-0) has a date with Rockford Auburn (30-2) while Simeon (31-1) must get past Bloom (29-3). Proviso East defeated Rockford Auburn 75-56 in the semifinals of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

So how do Simeon and Proviso East match up?

Is Proviso East too quick?

Is Simeon too big?

Does four-time state champion Robert Smith of Simeon have an edge in coaching experience over rookie Donnie Boyce of Proviso East?

Can Proviso East's Keith Carter penetrate and exploit Simeon's defense?

Can Proviso East contain Simeon's Jabari Parker, arguably the No. 1 player in the nation?

Will the game be as dramatic and entertaining and exciting as CentraliaCarver (Anthony Smedley's steal and game-winning shot) in 1963 or West AuroraMorgan Park (Laird Smith's buzzer-beating shot) in 1976 or Peoria CentralEast St. Louis Lincoln (Vincent Jackson's last-second shot in triple overtime) in 1989?

Remember when No. 2 Peoria Manual with Sergio McClain and Marcus Griffin defeated No. 1 Thornton 57-51 for the Class AA championship in 1996?

In 1997, they met in a rematch. But it was in the semifinals. No. 1 Peoria Manual edged No. 2 Thornton 65-62 for its unprecedented fourth state title in a row.

Previously, the state's two top-rated teams met for the state championship in 1945 (No. 2 Decatur 62, No. 1 Champaign 54) and 1950 (No. 1 Mount Vernon 86, No. 2 Danville 61).

So who will prevail on this memorable occasion if Simeon, seeking its third state title in a row and fifth in the last seven, and Proviso East, bidding for the school's fifth state title, reach the final game?

"On paper, should we get a Simeon vs. Proviso East match-up, it has the makings of being the best state championship game in recent memory -- perhaps the best since battles between Peoria Manual and Thornton in the last 1990s. It is the contest that everyone wants to see," said Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye.

"With that having been said, we have to give the edge to Simeon. The biggest reason is because all of their players have been there before and therefore have more experience. That can prove to be a big psychological boost for Simeon as they know how to handle themselves on the big stage. Simeon does not fold under pressure."

The Schmidt brothers also lean toward Simeon because the Wolverines have played a tougher overall schedule, playing against some of the nation's top-rated teams, a deliberate plan by coach Robert Smith to prepare his team for the state tournament. They believe it has made the Simeon players that much better and that much hungrier.

"As for the match-up itself, the fact that Proviso East lacks size could prove to be a disadvantage against Simeon," the Schmidts said. "Everyone can best believe that coach Smith will utilize getting the ball to Jabari Parker and Steve Taylor in the post and we aren't sure if Proviso East has anyone capable of defending against them. Proviso East would have to be able to press and trap, hoping they could generate turnovers in the open court."

Marist coach Gene Nolan, whose team lost to Simeon in the sectional final at Argo, was impressed with how smart and how disciplined Simeon played. "They are the best team in the state for a reason," he said.

"They are talented and very well-coached. They are everything we saw on tape and scouted, so big and strong and long and athletic. They do a great job of disrupting what you want to do. They are a team with great players but they play so unselfishly together.

"What makes them so great is they have so many weapons...Jabari Parker, Steve Taylor, a great point guard in Jaleni Neely, Jaylon Tate coming off the bench and Kendrick Nunn's ability to shoot and stretch a defense. They have so many ways they can beat you."

To seriously challenge Simeon, Nolan knew his team had to shoot well. But Marist was 6-of-22 in the first half. "The defense contested those shots. They made it very difficult for us to win. We went into the game knowing how good they are and they validated it," Nolan said.

Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh also heaped praise on the Proviso East team that ousted his Saxons in the sectional final at Schaumburg.

"They're unbelievable, the fastest team I've ever seen," Walsh said. "They play hard all the time. The defensive pressure they bring is tremendous. They put so much pressure on you. Beating their pressure is a feat in itself. You have to attack it and get off a good shot. If you hold the ball, they will trap you. You can't get into a track meet with them."

Walsh pointed out that Proviso East has five players on the floor at all times (usually Keith Carter, Sterling Brown, Paris Burns, Paris Lee and TraShaun Carroll) who are unbelievably fast and talented and skilled.

"I see no weakness," Walsh said. "Maybe Simeon can throw over the top of Proviso East's pressure. But what makes them so difficult to play is they always have five players on the floor who can handle the ball, pass it and shoot it. Their guards (Carter, Burns, Lee) are such a high quality. It is impossible to stop their dribble penetration."

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

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USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

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USA TODAY

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

Jimmy Butler won't be facing the Bulls a second time this season.

Butler suffered a non-contact knee injury on Friday night in Houston. The initial X-ray only revealed he didn't have any broken bones, but the MRI had to wait until Saturday.

The Timberwolves announced that the MRI revealed a meniscus injury in Butler's right knee. There is not yet word on how long the All-Star guard will be out of action, but if it wasn't already assumed that he wouldn't play against the Bulls, it's now certain.

Avoiding the ACL tear means avoiding the worse case scenario, but this is likely still going to cause Butler to miss a significant amount of time with about a quarter of the regular season remaining.

The Bulls take on the Timberwolves on Saturday night. Butler dropped 38 points at the United Center in his return to Chicago exactly two weeks ago, but the Bulls won 114-113.

Butler posted on Instagram a reaction to the injury.

Saturday's game will be the returns of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to Minnesota after they went the other direction in the Butler trade on draft night last June.