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Young’s Paul White has an injured ankle, on some possessions he limps around the court. Sharpshooter Miles Reynolds has a huge bandage on his forehead, the result of a collision Sunday against Morgan Park. It may or may not be contributing to some missed free throws.
White and Reynolds are Jahlil Okafor’s biggest weapons, the two threats he depends on to help lead No. 2 Young to victory. They weren’t any help at all in the first half Wednesday in the Public League Semifinals at Chicago State.
On the other side of the floor was No. 5 Orr, a team with the size and talent to demolish Young. The Spartans were finally living up to their potential in the first 16 minutes, grabbing a 15-point lead.
Slowly and steadily, Young climbed back into the game and a slight lead. Issaiah Hayes’ three-pointer missed with five seconds to play, Okafor grabbed the board and the Dolphins’ celebrated a 55-53 win over Orr.
Young senior Erwin Henry was the hero, coming off the bench to score 18 points and grab five boards.
“It was amazing,” Okafor said. “[Young coach Tyrone Slaughter] says everyone will have their moment to shine, you just have to be ready. That was his moment.”
Henry drained four threes in the game, filling the scoring void left by White (two points), who battled foul trouble.
“We were down,” Henry said. “In the locker room I told myself I just had to do whatever it takes.”
The Dolphins (21-5) grabbed their first lead of the game on a strong drive to the basket and free throw from Reynolds with 4:01 to play. Orr shot 5-for-10 from the line in the fourth quarter.
“[Henry] doesn’t get much recognition,” Slaughter said. “All he does is make plays for us.”
Okafor finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. He shot 6-for-8 from the field.
Marlon Jones led Orr (20-4) with 12 points. Tyquone Greer scored 11 and grabbed seven rebounds and Lou Adams Jr. added eight points.
“I’ve never felt anything this bad since I’ve been playing basketball,” Adams said. “I guess we weren’t supposed to win.”
Young will face Curie in the city championship game Friday at Chicago State. It’s the matchup the city has been waiting for all season: Okafor vs. Curie’s Cliff Alexander.
“It’s gonna be a matchup for the ages,” Reynolds said. “Maybe the most anticipated game in CPS history.”
Alexander and Okafor are competing for Sun-Times Player of the Year award and several national player of the year awards.
“I think everyone in Chicago should show up,” Slaughter said. “We may never see this again.”