Metamora shocks Simeon in Class 3A state semifinals

Jaylen Drane missed a contested three-pointer as time expired and the Redbirds celebrated their 50-47 upset of the Class 3A state title favorites.

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Metamora players celebrate after their 50-47 victory over Simeon.

Metamora players celebrate after their 50-47 victory over Simeon.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

CHAMPAIGN — Simeon is the state’s premier high school basketball program, holders of a record nine state championships.

Metamora had never been to the state finals before Friday.

So when Tyson Swanson headed to the free-throw line with 42 seconds to play and the Redbirds clinging to a one-point lead against the Wolverines, there were likely an awful lot nervous fans from Central Illinois.

Swanson’s teammates knew those free throws were money in the bank. Swanson made 147 consecutive free throws at a practice this season. He’s at home at the line.

“I wasn’t that nervous,” Swanson said. “I have a pretty good free-throw percentage.”

Swanson drained the free throws and then Metamora defended Simeon’s final possession well. Jaylen Drane missed a contested three-pointer as time expired and the Redbirds celebrated their 50-47 upset of the Class 3A state title favorites.

Metamora will play Sacred Heart-Griffin in the title game on Saturday. It’s the first time there hasn’t been a Chicago area team in the Class 3A state title game since 2011.

Metamora’s Ethan Kizer, a 6-6 junior, made the biggest shot of the game.

Simeon led 47-39 with 5:02 to play. The Redbirds (30-6) clawed back with two baskets by Swanson and one from Zack Schroeder. Then Kizer drained a long three-pointer with 1:51 left to give Metamora a one-point lead it would never surrender.

“You just have to believe,” Schroeder said. “There was never a doubt we could come back from that deficit. We just kept punching them in the mouth and kept getting stops.”

Kizer is Metamora’s tallest player. The rest of the team is 6-3 or shorter. The Redbirds showed their grit in the post, outrebounding Simeon 18-17.

“We did a really good job of blocking out,” Metamora coach Danny Grieves said. “[Simeon] crashes the boards as good as any team we’ve seen all year long. We ran a couple of drills to get ready and then kept feeding their brains that everyone had to block out, even the guards.”

Swanson led Metamora with 15 points and sophomore Tyler Mason scored 10. Kizer finished with nine and Schroeder scored 8.

Most teams have shot poorly from three so far in the tournament, but the Redbirds were 7 of 14.

“They made nine against Rock Island so we really tried to take away the three,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “We did a better job of that in the second half but unfortunately the one [Kizer] hit was big.”

Drane and Jalen Griffith each scored 12 for Simeon (28-6) and junior Michael Ratliff has seven points off the bench.

“They blocked us out pretty good,” Smith said. “That doesn’t happen [6-8 brothers Miles and Wes Rubin] very much. They knew the key was to keep us outside the paint. I’ll give [Metamora] the credit for that.”

Simeon will play St. Ignatius in the third place game late Friday.

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