PEORIA—The recruiting experts have drooled over Simeon junior Talen Horton-Tucker for the past two seasons. His size and skills are eye-popping and unique. The 6-5 junior has a Charles Barkley type game and body, which is not the type of comparison regularly applied to high school players.
All of those qualities were on display in the Wolverines 60-50 win against Bolingbrook in the Class 4A State Semifinals on Friday.
Horton-Tucker finished with 24 points, six rebounds and six assists.
“I just keep going at them,” Horton-Tucker said. “It doesn’t matter who is guarding us.”
Bolingbrook led 26-21 at the half. Simeon slowed things down and forced the Raiders (29-2) into several half-court possessions in the third and changed the pace of the game.
“We noticed on film they weren’t a good half court team,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “We did a great job of handling their pressure and then was able to slow them down. I thought we were able to do that for about six minutes.”
Horton-Tucker didn’t just score. He created most of the Wolverines’ offensive opportunities in the second half. Messiah Jones was dominant in the post, he helped give Simeon an 11-rebound advantage in the second half.
“I thought the fans got what they wanted to see. Great, high intensity basketball,” Smith said. “It was probably like a mid-major college basketball game and not a high school game.”
Jones finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds and senior Evan Gilyard added 15 points. He was 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Horton-Tucker seemed to raise his level of play to take on Bolingbrook’s strong 6-6 senior Malik Binns.
“[Horton-Tucker] is a good athlete,” Binns said. “I played him a couple times before. He’s better then last time. We went at each other, it was more of a physical game.”
Binns finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Nebraska recruit Nana Akenten led the Raiders with 16 points and sophomore Joseph Yesufu scored nine.
“We are one of the best teams in the state,” Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost said. “We believed it right from the get go. We weren’t content at halftime to be up. From a skill standpoint we are as a good as they are. From an athleticism standpoint we are as good as they are.”
Simeon will play Young for the Class 4A state championship on Saturday. The Wolverines beat the Dolphins in the regular season and in the Public League playoffs.
Smith broke with typical coaching traditions and actually talked to his team about the possibility of playing Young a few days ago.
“I wanted them to start thinking about it,” Smith said. “It’s very difficult to beat a team that good three times in a season. We have to come out like it is the first time.”Tags: Bolingbrook, Simeon