Simeon senior Talen Horton-Tucker, the Player of the Year, fell to his knees in sadness and shock as the final buzzer sounded at the end of overtime.
The Wolverines’ season was over. Young beat top-ranked Simeon 71-66 in the Class 4A Chicago State supersectional.
While the Wolverines were in tears, the Dolphins didn’t even celebrate.
“This win is not what we came here for,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “We didn’t come for this game we came for the next two games.”
Slaughter’s Dolphins have had a knack for state playoff success the last few seasons. They beat the Wolverines in the Class 4A state title game last season.
Simeon has seemed like an unbeatable force the past three months. The Wolverines dominated at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament and in the city playoffs. They were nationally ranked and coach Robert Smith had even said that this could be his best team ever.
“We were playing the best team in the country out there tonight,” Slaughter said. “They are an outstanding team and have the Player of the Year. This is our time. Our teams historically have gotten better at the end of year. The guys grew up tonight.”
Young’s Jake Kosakowski made a three-pointer with 28 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 60.
Horton-Tucker had a shot to win the game for Simeon (29-4) at the end of regulation but it rimmed out. Young jumped out to a 66-64 in overtime. The Wolverines continued to feed Horton-Tucker. He scored 26 points, but missed a difficult post move that could have tied the score at 66.
Kosakowski secured the rebound and the Dolphins shot 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 19 seconds of overtime to secure the win.
It is Simeon’s first loss to an in-state team this season. The Wolverines beat Young in the city tournament.
“Our guys got better shots and we took care of the ball,” Slaughter said. “But most importantly we played better defensively. Talen was going to get points but we were able to limit the others.”
Messiah Jones, Simeon’s All-Area and All-City post player, was limited to three points and 12 rebounds. Kosakowski, a 6-6 senior, isn’t a post player but he is the tallest Dolphin.
“Messiah is a tough guy to guard,” Kosakowski said. “They don’t have to run any play for him, he’s just a scrapper. I just tried to keep him off the glass. My mindset is to do whatever we can to win. I think my presence defensively helped us get this win and if feels great.”
Javon Freeman and Xavier Castaneda each scored 19 for Young (27-7). Myles Baker and Justin Boyd each added 11. All four were key players on last season’s championship team.
“This is their time,” Slaughter said. “Jake has been outstanding the last three games. All we asked him to do was go out and fight with Messiah as much as he could and he did that.”
Xavier Pinson scored 12 for Simeon but fouled out in the fourth quarter. Junior Kejuan Clements added 14 points.
“We hadn’t been playing well in awhile,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “When Pinson wnet out that really hurt us.”
Young will face Evanston in the Class 4A state semifinals on Friday in Peoria.