||More Sports||Sign up||School Finder|
Simeon's Jabari Parker (22) and Russell Woods (15) block the drive of Morgan Park's Markee Williams. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
We can all compare the present to the past. We can debate Simeon’s current four-peat vs. Peoria Manual’s four-peat from the mid-1990s, Jabari Parker’s place among the state’s all-time great players and whether Robert Smith is a coaching icon.
But this much is certain: We will be waiting a long, long time before talk of a dynasty materializes again and any player comes close to matching Parker’s individual accomplishments or a coach comes close to Smith’s success.
“I’m sure Peoria Manual never thought it would be done again,” says Smith, who became the first coach to win four straight state titles. “You can never say never, but it just takes so much, including being a little lucky and blessed. It’s not easy task.”
For all the talk about Simeon’s historical run to a fourth straight state championship, Morgan Park’s pure dominance in Class 3A was somewhat overlooked.
Though a very watered down Class 3A crop of teams in Illinois played a large part in it, there has never been a team since the four-class system began in 2008 that’s manhandled its seven opponents like Morgan Park did this March.
How dominant was Morgan Park? The closest game the Mustangs had in five wins prior to reaching Peoria was 33 points, with an average victory margin of 46 points. Once in Peoria, Morgan Park led its two opponents, Limestone and Cahokia, by as much as 31 and 21 points, respectively, in the fourth quarter.
After six years of four-class basketball in Illinois, it’s still a difficult sell.
The aura and dialogue that used to surround State Finals weekend has slowly deteriorated among hardcore, traditional fans. The crowds in Peoria have dwindled. Regional and sectional play has been watered down and there are still the same amount of teams — a total of 16 — that are “experiencing” Peoria and the State Finals as there were in the old two-class system; now the State Finals are just a weaker brand.
What the four-class system did this season was rob fans of the opportunity for a Simeon-Morgan Park rematch. The Chicago Public League powers split during the regular season before going on to win state championships in their respective classes.