Chicago high school basketball is about big, mythical moments. Statistics are fluid and unreliable, no one is really keeping a proper record of anything. But the special moments live on, the stories are handed down to each new generation of fans.
Talen Horton-Tucker’s legend was established on Sunday at Chicago State. The Simeon senior drained three consecutive three-pointers in the third quarter, all from long range, and then dished off a pretty behind the back pass to Messiah Jones.
That burst turned a two-point lead into a nine-point lead and the Wolverines never looked back on the way to a 69-59 win against Orr in the city title game.
“That beat us right there,” Orr coach Lou Adams said. “[Horton-Tucker] is the best player in the state, you have to pay more attention to him. We didn’t do that.”
Horton-Tucker finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
Derrick Rose will always be remembered for his back-to-back steals and dunks in the city title game at the United Center in 2006. But Rose only won two city titles. Horton-Tucker now has three. The Wolverines (25-3) have won nine city titles overall and are the first team to three-peat since Marshall won four consecutive titles from 1958-1961.
“I just had to keep my mind straight and keep my composure,” Horton-Tucker said. “We just wanted to play. They came looking for us and they found us.”
Junior guard Kejuan Clements, who has been on varsity for all three of the city titles, finished with 18 points and five rebounds.
“Everyone talks about his defense, but he is probably the most talented point guard in the state, he put on for us,” Horton-Tucker said.
Simeon senior Messiah Jones, who sat for long stretches with foul trouble, added 12 points and five rebounds. Zion Young added five points and seven rebounds.
“Zion came in and gave us a huge lift, we’ve been waiting for that,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “He’s played well in some other games but we’ve been waiting for him to do that in a big one.”
Chase Adams led Orr (23-4) with 16 points and six rebounds. Dannie Smith added 15 points and Raekwon Drake had 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Spartans kept getting the shots in the post they wanted, they just couldn’t get them to fall.
Horton-Tucker also had a lot to do with that.
“Talen just put his hand straight up and contested the shots instead of trying to block everything,” Smith said. “I don’t think there is anyone in the state better than him and I don’t think there are ten players in the country better than him. Today when we needed the best player on the court to step up he did that. He put us on his back and got us over the hump. That is what you do if you are the Player of the Year.”
Orr, which won Class 2A last season, desperately wanted to prove itself by beating the Wolverines.
“We wanted it so bad, there aren’t any dry eyes in [the locker room],” Adams said. “I just had to dry my eyes too.”
The Jones Convocation Center was nearly sold out. It’s the biggest crowd in the decade or so that the title game has been held at the arena, even bigger than the Young-Curie game in 2014 that attracted national attention and led Sportscenter.
“It was amazing,” Smith said. “This is what the city championship is supposed to be like. The two sides of town playing brought everyone out.”