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Chicago-Whitney Youngs Ausar Madison drives past DeLaSalles Martez Cameron. Stacia Timonere/for Sun Times Media
A minute into the 4A King Regional final on Friday night, Young center Jahlil Okafor was whistled for a reach-in foul. Thirty seconds later, De La Salle’s Justin Earls – Okafor’s man – slammed home an an ally-oop.
Some players would slouch and disappear after such a start. Not Okafor, the Sun-Times Player of the Year. The junior responded with a dunk of his own in Earls’ face the very next time down the court, a sign of things to come for the rest of the night.
Okafor dominated on both ends of the floor, finishing with 23 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and four assists, as the top-ranked Dolphins won the King Regional title, knocking off the Meteors 79-53.
“They had a what?,” Okafor jokingly asked after the game when it was brought up that there was a dunk in his vicinity early on. “After I picked up that first foul, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t get another foul. I didn’t want to hurt my team by not being in the game.
“I realized they were a lot smaller than me, so I just wanted to dominate on both ends of the floor. My coaches tell me when I’m around the rim to just dunk it, so that’s what I tried to do.”
With nobody in the gym that could slow down Okafor, the Dolphins (26-3) relied on him to take control of the game. Offensively, the junior had eight dunks among his 10 field goals and scored 20 of his points in the first half. On defense, his length and power altered several shots and caused multiple traveling violations for De La Salle’s slashing guards.
Behind the strength of their big man, Young went on a 21-4 run that spanned from the end of the first quarter to the middle of the second, putting the score out of reach. Forwards L.J. Peak (18 points) and Paul White (15 points) were terrific in transition, throwing down several dunks of their own on fast breaks.
Peak also played terrific defense on Meteors star Alvin Ellis, limiting the Minnesota recruit to just four first-half points. Ellis finished with 14 points, but much of them came in the fourth quarter after Young’s starters had been pulled.
“We wanted to let everyone know we was ready,” Peak said about the strong stretch of play.
The regional title – the fifth straight for Young – means the Dolphins advance onto the tough Argo Sectional. Coach Tyrone Slaughter credited the team’s workmanlike mentality, saying, “It’s our time of the year. Every game has the potential to be your last game, and our guys know that.
“Now we’re on to an incredible sectional, and we’re going to show up and play some good teams.”