Saturday, March 19, 2011
Posted: 11:26 p.m.
By Michael O'Brien
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.