CHICAGO – Winning a super-sectional and earning a trip to the state tournament is supposed to be a joyous occasion.
Throughout most of the state on Tuesday, that was the case.
At Chicago State, it wasn’t
Despite No. 1 Simeon defeating Evanston 59-34 in the Chicago State super-sectional and advancing to its third consecutive state semifinal, Wolverines coach Robert Smith walked off the court disappointed in his team. He certainly wasn’t allowing any celebration to take place.
Simeon will play Bloom in the Class 4A state semifinals on Friday. Rockford Auburn and Proviso East play in the other semifinal.
“We didn’t play very good at all,” said Smith, who has won four state championships. “We played okay in some spurts, but we didn’t play very good overall. We actually didn’t play Simeon ball. Too much individual play. We’re not going to win if we don’t play better.
“It don’t mean anything if you don’t win [state.] You can get down there, but for us, if we don’t win, it’s still a disappointing year for us. So we have to win the whole thing for us to be satisfied for what we’re trying to do.”
Smith’s frustrations began in the first half when he felt Simeon’s offense wasn’t being run efficiently, and he let his players know all about it at halftime with Simeon leading 29-19. He especially went after Simeon’s two star players Jabari Parker and Steve Taylor.
“He’s always not satisfied with us,” Parker said. “He always thinks that we can play better, which we should because there’s always room for improvement. We need to be more clean. We look a little bit sloppy out there. We have to fix a little mental lapse during the stretch in the first half. That really gets us a lot.”
Driven by Smith’s speech at halftime, Parker asserted himself in the third quarter. Parker scored six of Simeon’s first eight points in the quarter, and the Wolverines (31-1) went ahead 36-21. The game was never close again.
“That gives me more motivation,” Parker said of Smith’s halftime talk. “This is the last 16 minutes. This is the last half coming. I have to give it my all.”
Parker finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Kendrick Nunn (13 points) and Taylor (nine points, seven rebounds) contributed for Simeon.
For Evanston (21-11), it was a bittersweet loss. The Wildkits had made a memorable run in the state playoffs, but they were still disappointed to have their season ended.
“Nobody thought this team would be playing in a super-sectional,” Evanston coach Mike Ellis said. “We were picked in the middle of our conference. To be able to win a regional and beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame and win a sectional where we had to beat the No. 1 seed in New Trier. We talked about not resting on a win over New Trier as teams can do at Evanston, but take it to another level, which I thought we did in the sectional final game at Niles North.
“I think these kids should be real proud of the way where this season came to a halt here tonight.”
Josh Irving (10 points) and Randy Ollie (eight points, six rebounds) led Evanston.