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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For the past couple of weeks, among the things Simeon boys basketball coach Robert Smith has been preaching to his players was the importance of exhibiting assertiveness on the defensive end.
If nothing else, the No. 2 Wolverines demonstrated to their coach in Saturday’s 55-53 mild upset of nationally-ranked Memphis Southwind that they have improved their defensive mechanics.
Against a Southwind team that brought a No. 25 national ranking by Maxpreps.com into Saturday’s game at the Penny Hardaway Hoop Fest at White Station’s Spartan Palace, the Wolverines showed they can compete with elite competition.
Such was the case during a pivotal stretch that bridged the third and fourth quarters. With Southwind nursing a 10-point advantage, Simeon (10-2) produced a key 12-0 run to take a 46-44 lead at the 6:05 mark of the fourth on a Kendrick Nunn putback. Although the Wolverines surrendered a subsequent 7-0 run, they outscored the Jaguars 9-2 the rest of the way.
Duke recruit Jabari Parker, playing his sixth game of the year since he sustained a fracture foot over the summer, finished with a team-best 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
“We just fought it out and got the win,” Smith said after won its second straight. “We had been emphasizing defense and we got three defensive stops at the end.”
Among those key stops occurred inside of two minutes remaining and the contest knotted at 53-53. With Southwind looking to break the tie, Deckie Johnson heaved a lob to Marquette recruit JaJuan Johnson, who missed badly on the alley-oop attempt. That mishap eventually led to the Wolverines taking the lead for good as Nunn’s layup in transition gave them a 55-53 lead.
Still, the Jaguars (13-4) had a chance to force overtime or win it after burning a timeout with 14.5 left. However, JaJuan Johnson’s desperation three-point attempt ricocheted off the front end of the rim and into the arms of Simeon’s D. J. Williams as the final horned sounded.
Jonathan Williams scored a game-high 23 points and Deckie Johnson added 14 points for Southwind.