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Marist's Zak Niemiera dribbles around Simeon's Dennis Williams. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Playing against three-time defending state champion Simeon is a much a state of mind as physical contest of wills.
Marist knows as well as anybody. Simeon ended their magical season last year with a 65-44 victory in the Argo Class 4A Sectional. The teams could meet next Friday at Mount Carmel if both advance past regional semifinal opponents.
In a tuneup to the state tournament, the RedHawks fought valiantly though could not match the size, speed and athleticism as No. 2 Simeon ran past Marist 69-43 in the City-Suburban Showdown at the House of Hoops Saturday night.
Jabari Parker scored 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds, while Kendrick Nunn also netted 21 points to lead the Wolverines (23-3).
Star senior guard LJ McIntosh scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half to lead the RedHawks (17-10).
“They’re so big and long, one time I went to shoot the ball and I couldn’t even see the basket,” McIntosh said.
Nunn drilled four three-pointers in shooting a scintillating 9-for-11 from the field. Simeon used 10-0 and 9-0 flourishes to lead 30-16 at the break. Marist guard Lexus Williams scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half for Marist.
“We played them last year, and we know what they like to do,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said.
“That Princeton offense is one of the toughest offenses to guard against, especially at the high school level,” he said. “We spent a lot of time watching film of them, and I even watched Georgetown play against Syracuse, and Syracuse had success with its 2-3 zone.”
Simeon forced RedHawks to bomb away from the outside. Marist attempted 31 three-pointers and made just nine.
Still, Marist hung around as McIntosh recovered from his 0-7 shooting start. He scored all 11 of his team’s points in the fourth quarter. He drilled two three-pointers at the start of the fourth quarter that narrowed the margin to 51-38.
“It just seemed like every time we got close, Kendrick would hit a three or Jabari would score,” McIntosh said. “We were excited to play this game, and we just make a good showing.”
Junior star Nic Weishar had 12 points and six rebounds in the sectional game last year. He has missed his entire season recovering from a football-injury.
“I take away the positives of the game,” Marist coach Gene Nolan. “We had nine offensive rebounds, and they had 11, a differential of two, and that’s impressive given the size advantage they had on us.
“We didn’t shoot as well as we wanted, and we had stretches, like in the second quarter, where we needed to make more shots. Simeon’s a great team, very well coached, and you saw that tonight,” he said.
Morty Berglind had five points for the RedHawks, who need to get past a talented Hyde Park team in order to meet Simeon in a possible regional final.