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O’Brien: Simeon’s debut a sparkling success

Talen Horton-Tucker, Evan Gilyard, Kejuan Clements, Messiah Jones and Kezo Brown.

Simeon isn’t stocked with high-major seniors this year, but on Saturday in the Chicago Elite Classic at UIC the Wolverines appeared to be something better: a cohesive, fast, high school basketball team that is more than the sum of its parts.

The No. 2 Wolverines beat Gonzaga, D.C., the No. 4 ranked team in the nation by USA Today, 73-58.

Evan Gilyard, Kezo Brown and Kejaun Clements handled the ball and pushed the tempo. Messiah Jones did the dirty work, blocking shots and grabbing boards. Junior Talen Horton-Tucker played like he could be this season’s breakout star. He finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.

“This style of play fits us very well. We get up and down, we find each other, we get open shots,” Gilyard said.

Brown scored 17, Gilyard added 13 and Jones had 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

“It was a great test early for us,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “Of course it was the first game so it wasn’t our best game. At the end of the day, early in the season we just want to win. I thought we shot the ball well from three, that was really huge.”

Gonzaga guard Chris Lykes scored nine points in the first half and appeared to really get going in the second quarter. Brown shut down the small, Miami-bound senior in the second half, limiting to just another seven points.

“[Smith] told me I was going to take him,” Brown said. “I just denied him the ball.”