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Simeon's Russell Woods jumps for a short shot over Bloomington's Jakob Skoggins. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
PONTIAC, IL—The stands were packed for the second night in a row. It seemed that most of the town showed up to watch top-ranked Simeon, a team that has taken on favorite son/Harlem Globetrotter status in central Illinois.
The Wolverines did not disappoint, raining down an array of dunks and dominating the second half on the way to a 88-53 win over Bloomington.
That sets up a Simeon-Curie semifinal on Saturday. The teams met in the final last year, with the Wolverines winning.
Curie center Cliff Alexander has been the best player so far at the tournament. He scored 24 in the first round and had 18 points and 13 rebounds in the Condors’ 62-54 win over Joliet West on Friday.
“Big men don’t win the game,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “The guards have to get them the ball. Cliff is going to get his baskets though.”
While Alexander is blooming into one of the state’s top players, Simeon star Jabari Parker is still working his way back to full strength. Parker played 20 minutes against Bloomington. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, shoting 5-for-12 from the field.
Simeon’s Illini-recruit backcourt of Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn seems to be hitting stride. Tate scored 18 and had six assists against Bloomington Friday and Nunn delighted the crowd with several highlight reel slams, finishing with 18 points.
Smith isn’t totally happy with Simeon’s play so far this year, and acknowledges that Curie will provide a test.
“It’s going to be a war,” Smith said. “They’ve been playing well since they’ve been down here.”
West Aurora and Warren will play in the other semifinal. The Blackhawks were seeded third and expected to be playing on Saturday, but Warren is a surprise. Neither team has a high-major DI player on the roster and both will be heavy underdogs to Simeon or Curie.