Everyone in the gym at Simeon on Thursday could see it coming. Talen Horton-Tucker was about to do something special. The Simeon senior took flight near the free-throw line and hammered down a dunk that lit up the gym early in the fourth quarter against Curie.
The No. 1 Wolverines already had the game well in hand at that point and cruised to an 80-63 win against No. 2 Curie.
Horton-Tucker’s dunk brought Simeon alum and current Milwaukee Bucks player Jabari Parker up out of his seat, which is an accomplishment.
“Jabari always tells me I don’t have enough bounce,” Horton-Tucker said. “It was nice, but it was weak to me. I could have done something better than that.”
Simeon junior Kejuan Clements says it was one of Horton-Tucker’s five best so far this season.
“I’ve seen him do some crazier stuff than that but it set the crowd off,” Clements said.
The first quarter was close and Simeon led 33-25 at half. The Wolverines took control during the third quarter. They led 48-36 when Curie coach Mike Oliver was ejected after receiving back-to-back technicals for arguing with the referees.
Horton-Tucker finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.
“He just keeps getting better and better,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “He’s doing everything. He rebounds, he is playing defense and blocking shots and passing. He’s trying to prove himself. He started out as a chubby kid that no one thought could play. He’s trying to prove that he is one of the top 25 players in the country.”
Messiah Jones had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolverines (19-3, 9-0) and Kejuan Clements and Xavier Pinson each scored 11.
Junior Marquise Walker led Curie (18-3, 8-1) with 19 points and Maurice Commander scored 16.
The win gives Simeon the Red-South/Central title. The Wolverines haven’t lost to an in-state team this season and has been solidly beating the other elite Public League teams.
Smith says it is the most dominant team he’s had, which is quite a statement considering he’s coached six state championship teams.
“The thing about [Derrick Rose’s team in 2006], is that when they got to the city playoffs they destroyed everyone,” Smith said. “This team is similar but it might be a little more dominant. Rose’s team had a chip on its shoulder about winning city and state.”
The Wolverines are clearly playing with a chip on their shoulder. Horton-Tucker went through an early season recruiting drama with Illinois and then was left off the McDonald’s All-American team. Everyone else on the team, other than Messiah Jones who signed with Drake, is still playing for a college scholarship.
“I’ve been playing with fire my whole life,” Horton-Tucker said. “Coming out with a chip on my shoulder helps a lot. Not making the McDonald’s game and the recruiting stuff, I’ve put it behind me. I can’t change the past so I have to look towards the future.”