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O’Brien: Zach Norvell leads, Josh Thomas scores and Simeon cruises

Simeon sophomore Talen Horton-Tucker drained a three-pointer right before the halftime buzzer. Simeon senior Zach Norvell screamed with joy.

That moment sums up the new look Wolverines, a team that has completely dominated opponents for the past month.

Horton-Tucker is one of a handful of players that went from rotation guys to major contributors. Norvell has become a true alpha-dog, he’s the leader that Simeon coach Robert Smith says the team has lacked the past few seasons.

“That’s huge for us,” Smith said. “We have a leader, and the last couple years we haven’t had a leader. That’s been our problem. It’s not [Norvell’s] scoring, it’s the rebounding and passing and leadership on the court and in practice.

Simeon beat Thornton 88-75 on Friday in the Class 4A Bloom Sectional final. The Wolverines will face United Township at the Illinois State Supersectional on Tuesday.

Madison Lowery, who rarely even played for the majority of the season, scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds.

“[Lowery] has a chance,” Smith said. “He’s in between basketball and baseball. In the spring he’s playing baseball. He just sat on the bench and waited his turn and when his number was called he came in and did what he was supposed to do. That’s just how our program is.”

Lowery first started getting minutes in late January.

“After the Morgan Park game that’s when my minutes took off,” Lowery said. “They saw I could handle this type of basketball.”

Horton-Tucker socred nine points and Evan Gilyard added 12 points for the Wolverines (28-3). The senior stars also produced. Norvell had 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Josh Thomas turned in his second consecutive top-notch performance, leading the way with 23 points and five rebounds.

“Simeon is a tradition,” Lowery said. “When they play us they are playing Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker, Bobby Simmons, all of those guys. Every team that beats us, that is like their state championship so we can’t take any games for granted.”

Simeon led 43-28 at the half and spent the final two quarters trying to slow the game down. Thornton is shorter and slimmer than the Wolverines at every position, so their only chance was to run.

“We play a lot of half court basketball [during the season] just so we can have a chance to make it downstate,” Smith said. “But playing fast is right up our alley.”

Senior Curtis Dilworth led Thornton (25-4) with 33 points and Orlando Allen Jr. scored 14. Senior Sam Taylor III, an All-Area selection, was held to eight points and 10 rebounds.

“They are very loaded, a talented team,” Thornton coach Tai Streets said. “They play hard and they were ready for us. You have to give them credit. I love my guys, we weren’t predicted to do anything this year and we competed every day.”

Streets first year as head coach at Thornton was a complete success. The Wildcats don’t have won the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament and reach a sectional final. The program’s future is bright.