PEORIA, Ill. – As Warren’s Darius Paul drained his final free throw of the night on Friday, giving the Blue Devils a double-digit lead and assuring them victory in the Class 4A semifinals, a Normal Community fan yelled from the stands, “You’ll never be as good as your brother. Go Brandon. Go Brandon.”
Brandon being Brandon Paul, Darius’ older brother and a sophomore guard on Illinois. In a unique situation, Darius played in his first Class 4A state tournament, which began at 8:45 p.m., and Brandon played in his first NCAA tournament game, which started 30 minutes prior.
It will be a memorably night for the family with both coming out victorious.
Brandon and the Illini rolled to a 73-62 win over UNLV with Brandon going for eight points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. Darius and Warren won 55-43 over Normal Community with Darius scoring a team-high 16 points and adding nine rebounds, two assists, two steaks and one block.
Their parents attended Brandon’s game in Tulsa, Okla. and were going to drive through the night to attend Darius’ championship one on Saturday.
Warren will play Simeon in the Class 4A state championship on Saturday.
“Everybody tells me it’s supposed to be a good experience for us to be playing at the same time,” Darius said. “It was something we never experienced before as far his first NCAA tournament and my first state finals. It’s a good thing we both won.”
Warren’s victory was slightly more shaky than Illinois’. The Blue Devils jumped to a 13-6 lead after one quarter, but then were outscored 21-12 in the second quarter and found themselves behind by two at half.
Given time to think about what went right and what went wrong in the first half, the Blue Devils got back on track in the third quarter. They opened the second half on 11-0 run and put Normal Community away.
“We had a really poor second quarter,” Warren coach Chuck Ramsey said. “We were able to get it together at halftime.”
Warren (31-3) will now get a second crack at Simeon. The Blue Devils lost Simeon 58-50 in the Pontiac holiday tournament championship.
“You have to play four quarters and you really have to take care of the ball against Simeon,” Ramsey said. “I guess that would be true in any game, but I guess that would be more emphasized when you play them. When we played them at Christmas, we had nice stretches in the game, but we didn’t close it out very well. We just can’t let that happen to be successful.”
Brandon Ferguson (13 points) and Jeremiah Jackson (10 points) contributed in the win for Warren.