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Young has traversed the country over the past three months, playing what is generally regarded as the toughest schedule of any high school team in the nation. The No. 2 Dolphins have been fixtures on ESPN broadcasts and spent the season ranked among the best teams in the country by USA Today.
If there has been any downside to the spotlight it’s been finding a way to get geared-up for conference games. Aside from Orr, the other Red-West teams are lacking in high-major college talent, something Young is very used to playing against.
“We haven’t always been motivated enough,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “We turned it around in the second half tonight, but for most of the season it’s been a little like trudging through mud. We get the win in the end but it hasn’t been pretty.”
The Dolphins knocked off visiting North Lawndale 70-45 on Monday, clinching the Red-West title.
It’s the first conference championship for the talented trio of Jahlil Okafor, Paul White and Miles Reynolds, but there wasn’t any celebrating afterwards.
“No celebrating that for us,” Okafor said. “Especially when you are up by that many points. We’ve got bigger things in mind.”
Okafor scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds and White added 11 points and six rebounds. Miles Reynolds was the star of the night, scoring 22 points. He’s been red-hot from beyond the arc over the past two games.
“The first half of the season I came out hot,” Reynolds said. “Around Christmas, Paul and Jahlil really started to take off and recently in 2014 I’ve been getting my swagger back.”
The game was close at the half, with Young (17-5, 9-0) leading 26-18. The Dolphins came out and opened the third quarter with a 13-2 run and never looked back.
“They hit some shots and I think we just got rattled,” North Lawndale coach Randy Stonewall said. “We just couldn’t seem to make a shot after that.”
Senior DeAndre Watson led the Phoenix (10-10, 4-5) with eight points. Keith Mack scored seven and Jeremy Williams and freshman Manny Patterson each contributed six points.
According to Slaughter, Young is not going to play a makeup game against Orr. The game was canceled during the recent string of bad weather and won’t affect the conference standings.
“I haven’t talked with anyone [at the CPS] about it yet,” Slaughter said. “But the thinking is that we don’t want to hold up the playoffs from starting.”