PEORIA, Ill. — Simeon’s Jabari Parker will certainly be remembered for many things. The Duke commit was Illinois’ Mr. Basketball as a junior and will likely be that again in 2013. He was the National Player of the year as a junior and it would be hard to argue against him to repeat. He had his number 22 retired at the school while still playing.
He thinks, though, his biggest accomplishment in basketball so far is four consecutive Illinois state basketball titles. He finished that goal on Saturday by scoring 20 points, leading Simeon to a 58-40 win against Lincolnshire Stevenson in the IHSA Class 4A state finals.
It’s just the second time an Illinois school has won four in a row. Peoria Manual did it from 1994-97.
“We’ve been writing history all along,” Parker said after the win. “This is how they are going to remember us.”
Russell Woods added a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Kendall Pollard chipped in 10 points and nine boards and Parker added eight rebounds for the Wolverines (30-3).
The title also gives Simeon seven championships overall, a record it continues to add to. Simeon coach Robert Smith believes the team’s national schedule gives the Wolverines a decided edge in comparisons to the Manual run.
“We played those teams on their home floors. We went to Oak Hill. We went to Dallas. We went to Memphis,” Smith said. “I think this is the best program in the state.”
Simeon stumbled out of the gate in the championship game, turning the ball over in its first two possessions before righting itself and jumping to a 27-17 lead midway through the second quarter. The Patriots hung around, though, trailing by just seven, 31-24, at halftime behind Jalen Brunson’s 13 points.
The Wolverines’ Jaylon Tate shut down Brunson after the initial burst, holding the sophomore star to just one second-half point.
“I just tried to give him a lot of pressure,” Tate said of the defensive stops. “He’s a good player but the pressure seemed to work in the second half.”
The Wolverines also took advantage of a Patriots scoring drought to begin the second half. Stevenson missed its first five shots in the third quarter and didn’t score until Connor Cashaw hit two free throws with 3 minutes, 37 seconds to go in the third quarter. Cashaw hit a jumper with just less than two minutes to go for Stevenson’s first field goal but by then it was 42-28 and Simeon never looked back.
Smith moved Parker to the post after the 6-foot-8 senior began the game on the wing. The mismatch with Stevenson’s tallest player being just 6-3 was evident.
“Taking advantage of the mismatch, that helped Russell and me,” Parker said. “It also helped with Jaylon (Tate) getting us the ball. That really helped.”
Stevenson’s Andrew Stempel added 13 points.