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Simeon beats Morgan Park, wins 10th city title

The shoe-company spectacle that transformed Jones Armory into a sparkly showcase of Public League basketball left coaches, players and fans in awe over the weekend.

Simeon’s Frederick Poole (10) holds up the City Championship Trophy with his teammates after winning the game against Morgan Park.
Simeon’s Frederick Poole (10) holds up the City Championship Trophy with his teammates after winning the game against Morgan Park.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

The shoe company spectacle that transformed Jones Armory into a sparkly showcase of Public League basketball left coaches and players and fans in awe over the weekend.

The overall reviews were mixed but one of the very youngest people involved, Simeon sophomore Avyion Morris, wasn’t distracted by a single element of the hype.

The 5-8 guard didn’t play to please the crowd and didn’t think about points. He was a single-minded defensive force. He limited Curie star Ramean Hinton in the semifinals and then took it upon himself to nullify Morgan Park senior Adam Miller in the championship game.

“Morris has the heart of a lion,” Simeon senior Jeremiah Williams said.

Morris used all of his skills and smarts to deny Miller shooting opportunities. Williams scored, rebounded and blocked shots. Junior Ahamad Bynum was an offensive force. Sophomore point guard Jaylen Drane was a blur in the open court and junior Fred Poole did the dirty work.

That’s what Simeon expected from the start of the season. But it was a rocky road for a couple months before everything came together against rival Morgan Park on Sunday.

The Wolverines hung on for an 81-76 victory and the school’s tenth city title.

“I know how to play defense and I know how I was brought up,” Morris said. “I watched film on him and got to know his game. I knew the moves he was going to do and played smart and fundamentally sound against him.”

Miller, an Illinois recruit, missed most of the second quarter due to foul trouble. He finished with 14 points and was 3-for-11 shooting.

“I’m so proud of [Morris],” Bynum said. “All he wants to do is play defense. He doesn’t care about anything else.”

Bynum finished with 22 points and five rebounds. He was 7-for-10 shooting and said that playing the second game with the strange lighting (court bright, everything else dark) was much easier.

“It felt good playing out there,” Bynum said. “I was just confident in my shot.”

Williams had 21 points and 11 rebounds and also provided a rim-protecting presence against Morgan Park’s leapers with size. His play over the last month has taken Simeon from an unranked team to city champs.

“It feels amazing to win it,” Williams said. “Through the struggles we had I stopped looking at the rankings. I was completely done with it. We all stopped looking at it and got completely locked in as a team. We knew what we were capable of and we showed it.”

Simeon led 73-56 with just 2:40 to play. Morgan Park did not go down quietly. Senior Marcus Watson, a Wake Forest recruit, came alive at the end. He scored 15 of his 28 points in the final in that final stretch.

Watson’s three-pointer with four seconds to play pulled the Mustangs within 80-76. Poole drained a free-throw with three seconds left to seal the win for Simeon.

Brandon Weston finished with 19 points and eight rebounds for Morgan Park. Simeon won the conference showdown between the two rivals last month on the road.

Simeon now has 10 city titles, good enough for third on the all-time list behind Marshall (12) and Crane (11).

“This one is a little more special,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “I don’t think anyone gave us a chance or thought we’d have an opportunity to get this far. Especially early in the season the way we were playing. And we are so young. I was really out there coaching. It wasn’t like we have a star player. Bynum and Williams are good players but we don’t have that electric person.”