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Benet's Sean O'Mara looks to the hoop with Young's Jahlil Okafor defending. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Manley’s Russell Cross and Thornwood’s Eddy Curry are the gold standards for Chicago area big men in the past two generations.
Add a new name to the list.
Young junior Jahlil Okafor dazzled the crowd at House of Hope Saturday in the top-ranked Dolphins’ 61-46 win over No. 7 Benet.
He scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but simple numbers can’t come close to representing Okafor’s performance.
The 6-11 center was matched up against Benet’s 6-9 Sean O’Mara. It was supposed to be a chance to see what Okafor could do against an opponent nearly his size. Instead, it was a showcase for Okafor’s seemingly limitless array of post moves.
“This is actually the church I attend,” Okafor said of the building the game was played in. “I was hoping I would have a good game here. It was really weird when I walked in and saw the court.”
O’Mara managed 10 points and five rebounds against Okafor.
“I watched some of his highlights on film,” Okafor said. “I realized a lot of his shots he likes to fade away on. I tried to use my body and use my length to stop that.”
The Dolphins (24-3) took control of the game with an 11-2 first quarter run and never looked back.
“The chances of us seeing a team better than them in the playoffs is slim,” Benet’s Pat McInerney said. “The only way would be if we played them again in Peoria.”
Junior Miles Reynolds scored 13 and LJ Peak added 11 points and four steals for the Dolphins.
“[Okafor] is so big and strong and skilled,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “He’s obviously the real deal. He’s as good a post player as I’ve seen in my 20 years coaching.”
McInerney scored eight and Colin Bonnett and Eddie Eshoo each scored six for Benet (23-5).
Young played the majority of its games out of state this season, then returned to Chicago and lost to Simeon and Orr. They’ve been on a major roll since then, winning the city championship and claiming the top spot in the rankings.
“When we came back to Chicago that was the first time we’ve seen the zone all year,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “The better teams across the country don’t play zone.”
O’Mara was a good sport throughout the game, and remained classy at the end.
“I can learn from playing [Okafor],” O’Mara said. “He’s the best player in the nation. It’s always going to make you better.”