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Jahlil Okafor of Young glides in for a shot with Dematha's Kelvin Howard attempting at the block. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
The high school basketball regular season generally leaves with a whimper. The final Saturday of games traditionally has a thin schedule, with maybe a make-up game or two.
Not this year.
The annual City-Suburban Showdown is a bit later this season, bringing some serious star power to the regular season’s final day. This edition boasts the greatest collection of big men the event has showcased in its 18-year history, with Young’s 6-10 Jahlil Okafor and 6-9 Paul White, Benet’s 6-9 Sean O’Mara and Simeon’s 6-8 Jabari Parker.
Benet and Young will matchup in the 6 p.m. game at House of Hope Arena.
Okafor is the top-ranked big man in the national 2014 class. O’Mara isn’t nationally ranked yet, but that could happen this summer.
“It’s an opportunity for our big to play against their big,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “I’m sure that is what everyone is interested in.”
O’Mara and Okafor played each other in eighth grade, but not since.
“It’s going to be a tough battle playing against Sean O’Mara, another great big man,” Okafor said. “He’s improved [since eighth grade] and so have I.”
Benet beat Simeon in the 2011 City-Suburban Showdown. That victory established the Redwings as a state powerhouse and earned them deep respect in the Public League. A win over Young this season could be the first step towards developing a national reputation.
“[Young] has a great team from top to bottom,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “I think this is an experience hopefully our kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”
The Redwings (24-4) have exceeded most experts’ expectations for them this season. Benet has beaten York, Curie, St. Ignatius, Morton, Homewood-Flossmoor, Bogan, Notre Dame and Marian Catholic. That’s one of the top resumes in the state.
“Whitney Young is one of the best teams in the state and in the nation,” O’Mara said. “It’s definitely something we’ve been looking forward to.”
De La Salle faces Proviso East in the opener at 4 p.m. and Simeon plays Marist in the final game at 8 p.m.