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Marist's Zak Niemiera dribbles around Simeon's Dennis Williams. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Simeon was in a different state of mind Saturday night. With more than nine days to contemplate their semifinal loss to Morgan Park in the Public League tournament, the Wolverines were fresh, lively and wired up.
In their tuneup before Simeon begins defense of its three consecutive Class 4A state championships, star seniors Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn scored 21 points apiece as the Wolverines thrashed Marist 69-43 in the City-Suburban Showdown at the House of Hoops.
Nunn shot 4-of-6 on three-pointers in a blistering 9-of-11 performance from the field. “I haven’t shot the ball, especially the three-pointer like that, the whole season, but my legs were fresh tonight,” the Illinois recruit said.
Simeon had separate runs of 10-0 and 9-0 in building a 30-16 lead at the break. They also posted a 9-0 run to end the third quarter.
Parker has had to answer questions about his health since he fractured his foot in the offseason and spent much of December regaining his timing and rhythm. “I feel good out there,” Parker said. “I don’t want to put a percentage of where I am, because some of the greatest athletes ever have played at less than 100 percent.”
Simeon beat Marist 65-44 in the Argo Sectional final last March en route to its state title run. The teams could meet again Friday if both win their regional semifinals in the Mount Carmel Class 4A regional. “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 (23-3) forced the RedHawks to bomb away from the outside. Marist attempted 31 three-pointers and made just nine. Star senior guard LJ McIntosh scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half to lead Marist. His running mate, Lexus Williams, scored 16. Simeon shut the rest of the team out.
“They’re so big and long, one time I went to shoot the ball and I couldn’t even see the basket,” McIntosh said.
“One difference is that last year they had four or five guys that score the basket, and they don’t really have that this year,” Smith said. “We wanted to contest them, close out on the shooters and not give them easy looks.”
Simeon senior point guard Jaylon Tate was spectacular with 10 points and 11 assists as the Wolverines posted assists on 21 of their 29 baskets.
“Jaylon did a great job of running the team, getting me involved and Kendrick involved,” Parker said. “He showed real leadership.”
Starting center Russell Woods also contributed with eight points and 11 rebounds. Parker collected nine boards on the night for the Wolverines.