Simeon holds off Morgan Park in classic rivalry game

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Morgan Park and Simeon put on a show Tuesday, further establishing The Battle of Vincennes as the city’s best basketball rivalry. The game lived up to its hype and legacy in the Wolverines 67-63 win over the Mustangs. The basketball was fast and furious but smart and under control. A dozen future college basketball stars traded high-level moves, delighting the capacity crowd at Simeon.

“It’s a college game with the level of talent out there,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “It’s not a regular high school basketball game. It was a great contest. We bring the best out of them and they bring the best out of us.”

Josh Thomas was the best in the biggest moment. Simeon’s do-everything bench star seized his moment. With the score tied at 63 and 29 seconds to play, Thomas drove to the basket, pulled up short and drained a jumper to give No.3 Simeon (14-1, 6-0 Red-South) the lead for good.

“My mindset was to do what I do best, get to the basket,” said Thomas, who finished with eight points and five rebounds.

Morgan Park guard Marcus LoVett attempted to respond on the next possession. He drove to the basket but the ball rimmed out and Thomas grabbed the rebound. Zack Norvell (20 points) drained two free throws to seal the win with 12 seconds left.

“The play that (Thomas) made at the end that’s what I wanted,” Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin said. “Off balance, on one leg. That was good defense.”

The stars took turns in the spotlight. Morgan Park guard Charlie Moore was all over the floor in the first half, scoring nine of his 19 points. Edward Morrow established himself early in the second quarter, scoring eight of his 11 points to help Simeon lead 35-31 at the half.

LoVett started slow. He didn’t score for the first 14 minutes of the game but came alive at the end of the first half, scoring eight consecutive points for the No.8 Mustangs (10-5, 3-2 Red-South). Then he dazzled in the second half to score a game-high 22 points. He shot 7- for-20 in the game and chatted with a pair of Illinois assistant coaches outside the locker room after the game.

Simeon received major contributions from a pair of underclassmen guards, sophomore Evan Gilyard (eight points) and freshman Kezo Brown, who guarded LoVett for long stretches of the game.

“(Brown) played pretty good defense,” Smith said. “That’s a top 100 player (LoVett) vs. a freshman. (Morgan Park’s) guards are tremendous. Charlie got off early and then it was Marcus.”

Norvell was consistent throughout, making a three-pointer in each quarter. In the past two weeks he’s evolved from a complimentary piece to one of the Wolverines stars. Norvell was disappointed in his performance at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament in late December.

“(After that) I got back in the gym and got a lot of reps up,” Norvell said. “I’m getting more lift on my shot.”

Junior Alonzo Chatman was a major bright spot for Morgan Park. He scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but more importantly was able to at least slow down Morrow in the post, something almost no player in the area has accomplished this season.

“(Chatman) is coming on now, that’s what we needed,” Irvin said. “I told (Chatman) if you want some respect go get it.”

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