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PEORIA — Young’s Jahlil Okafor is one of the all-time legends of Illinois high school basketball. The 6-10 center earned the label long before the state tournament began.
Saturday at Carver Arena his teammates and good friends, Paul White and Miles Reynolds, etched their names along side his in the history book. The senior trio capped their careers in the ultimate style, beating Benet 46-44 in the Class 4A state championship at Carver Arena.
Okafor, White and Reynolds played more than 100 varsity basketball games together over four years. Their bond was forged traveling all over the country. It proved unbreakable on the court this month. No style of play bothered them, no injury (Reynolds and White suffered a few) could keep them off the court.
“We are brothers,” Reynolds said. “I don’t think anything can change that. Basketball doesn’t define us or our friendship.”
Benet big man Sean O’Mara (eight points) was able to contain Okafor (eight points) and keep the Redwings in the game. Reynolds took over the scoring duties for top-ranked Young (28-5) finishing with 19 points.
“It’s been a long time together,” Okafor said. “I would go to war with those guys, they are my brothers.”
No. 10 Benet (25-8) made a final charge at the state title in the last minute of the season. Collin Pellettieri, whom Young guarded heavily all game, finally broke free and made three-pointers with 1:09 and with 48 seconds to play. The second shot pulled Benet within 44-40. O’Mara’s rebound and basket with 26 seconds to play made it 44-42 and gave Benet’s large crowd some hope.
White was fouled on the next possession. He calmly drained two free throws with 19.5 seconds to play to seal the win.
“We weren’t surprised,” Okafor said. “They earned the right to play in the state title game. We knew they didn’t want to settle for runner-up.”
Okafor was 4-for-9 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. White finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
“I’m most happy for the kids and the institution,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “Our defense was good and the seniors stepped up at the end. That’s what champions are all about. Benet was a great team and they gave it everything they had, they should be proud.”
It’s the Dolphins’ third state championship. Quentin Richardson led the way to a Class AA title in 1998 and Marcus Jordan and Chris Colvin helped the Dolphins and Slaughter to the 2010 Class 4A championship.
Junior Colin Bonnett led Benet with 12 points and six rebounds. Pellettieri scored 11 and O’Mara added eight boards.
“I’m just really proud to be this team’s leader and captain,” O’Mara said. “It’s a blessing. We know we were picked to lose. That fired us up.
“I just tried to keep [Okafor] off the block. He’s even more athletic than he was last year. It really was a battle of titans.”