The Simeon-Fenwick game on Monday began with a moment of silence in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., but in a way the entire event was a tribute to his legacy.
Fenwick is the first suburban team in anyone’s memory to come and play at Simeon. Just in general, it is rare for a suburban team to come and play at a Chicago Public School. It happens occasionally at big events or in the playoffs, but almost never in non-conference play.
“It’s great for the day that we have it on, Martin Luther King Day,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “[Fenwick coach Rick Malnati] approached me with it last year, the idea of us playing each other. This is something I would like to keep going as long as our schedule allows us to do it.”
Simeon played at Fenwick last year. Smith thinks Fenwick’s experience at Simeon could help encourage other suburban schools to come play in CPS gyms.
“I hope so,” Smith said. “I think this could start it, not just playing at big events but going inside of the high schools. We need to do that. We need to be in different atmospheres. We need to go to the suburban gyms to play and they need to come to ours. Everything they read is not always that. We play thousands of basketball games and one incident or two incidents happen. That’s not fair to the CPS. Stuff happens in suburban areas too, we just don’t hear about it.”
Fenwick fans turned out in force for the game and the Friars brought their cheerleaders. The event went off without a hitch.
“This is a great experience, to come to Simeon on MLK Day,” Malnati said. “It’s a great memory for our guys. Every part of today was awesome.”
That’s a sentiment rarely expressed by a losing coach. Top-ranked Simeon beat No. 17 Fenwick 55-50. The first three quarters were excellent and then both teams struggled to score in the final eight minutes.
“[Fenwick] missed some shots down the stretch,” Smith said. “It looked like they got a little tired. If they had a bit more legs they beat us, because we weren’t very smart.”
Simeon is now 16-0, the best start in the history of the storied program.
“It’s lovely,” Wolverines junior Kezo Brown said. “Everyone is playing well, we are clicking as a team and going at it in practice.”
The Wolverines aren’t loaded with the high level college talent they’ve had in the past, but the guard-heavy lineup with a balanced scoring attack is getting the job done.
“We have molded together more as a team than in the other years,” Simeon senior Evan Gilyard said. “We treat each other like brothers. Everyone can score, it’s just about moving the ball around. That’s why we are playing so well.”
Gilyard scored 15 points. Junior Kezo Brown had 14 and Talen Horton-Tucker added 14 points, four rebounds and some tremendous defense.
“It was an amazing experience,” Gilyard said. “There were a lot of people, it was a fun atmosphere. It was basketball, people who love basketball.”
Senior Jacob Keller led Fenwick (13-4) with 16 points and Jamal Nixon scored 13.