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Henricksen: No game quite like Simeon-Morgan Park

When you push all the drama and controversy to the side when talking about this Simeon-Morgan Park thing we have going right now, it’s easy to call it exactly what it is: the best high school basketball rivalry going.

Wait, who are we kidding? The drama and controversy are a part of what makes this South Side bragging rights game so appetizing.

The fact it involves the two premier basketball programs in the state makes it even better.

In the past three years Morgan Park has won two Class 3A state titles and finished third in the state last season. Simeon is Simeon, a national power that has won six state championships and one state runner-up finish under coach Robert Smith in the past 10 seasons.

Then there is the endless list of Division I players these two programs have churned out and continue to produce since this rivalry reached epic levels in recent years: Simeon’s Jabari Parker, Kendrick Nunn, Kendall Pollard, Steve Taylor, Darien Walker, Jaylon Tate, Zach Norvell and Evan Gilyard; Morgan Park’s Billy Garrett, Jr., Kyle Davis, Josh Cunningham, Marcus LoVett, Jarrin Randall and Charlie Moore.

These two giants have matched up nine times in the past four seasons, with Simeon winning six of the nine. There have been Red-South championships and city titles on the line. There have been No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns. And it’s been ultra-competitive, with eight of the nine games being decided by five points or less.

The players, the two coaches, the fan bases and schools can say all they want about “respect” for one another publicly, but there is definitely a raw edge to this one. It’s cutthroat. Maybe it’s not “bad blood” between Simeon and Morgan Park, but there is enough loathing between the two to more than fuel the fire.

And, oh, that the two schools play in the same conference and reside less than five miles apart on Vincennes Avenue on Chicago’s South Side makes it unique and truly special. This game makes basketball junkies drool.

What Simeon-Morgan Park does is bring out the very best. Whether it’s ragged or clean and crisp, there is no game that raises the level of intensity, competitiveness and pride of everyone on the floor quite like this one does.

There is no game that brings more heat, no game that brings as much energy from not only the players but the coaches and fans as well. There is a different feel in the gym when these two meet, and if you ever get a chance to see one of these games in person, do it.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport