For three quarters Saturday night, Simeon looked completely out of sorts. Needing a win to get back to .500, they were throwing up bricks and giving up a multitude of offensive rebounds to Hillcrest, resulting in a four-point deficit entering the final frame.
Then, at the perfect time, the No. 9 Wolverines (9-9, 3-2 Red-South/Central) found their game.
Simeon erupted for nine unanswered points in less than a minute to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter, then rode a dynamite closing stretch from guard Kejaun Clements to scrape out a 54-47 win.
The victory completed a 3-0 week for the Wolverines, who shockingly stood at 6-9 after the holiday tournaments but topped Kenwood on Tuesday, Hyde Park on Thursday and then Hillcrest tonight to regain control of their season. They were all smiles after the final buzzer on a snowy night in Calumet City, where Simeon headlined a six-game shootout in TF North’s gym.
“We’ve been struggling the whole year. We started 1-6,” said assistant Leonard Thomas, filling in for recovering head coach Robert Smith. “When we came into this week, our goal was to be .500 on Sunday, and we reached that, and hopefully we take off from here. We’re going to be a scary team in March.”
Forward Antonio Reeves led Simeon with 15 points (on 6-of-11 shooting) and seven rebounds. Clements finished with 14 points — going 4-of-11 from the field — but gave the Wolverines the lead for good with a crucial layup in the final minutes, then made four straight free throws to ice things.
“If I played the first half how I played the second half, the game wouldn’t have been close,” Clements said.
It was Simeon’s defense that made far more of a difference, though.
Last night, I was at Stevenson, where the host Patriots beat Waukegan despite taking 16 fewer field goal attempts. It was the exact same story again Saturday: Simeon attempted just 50 shots to Hillcrest’s 66, yet held the Hawks to only 16 makes (24 percent).
Hillcrest (11-7, 7-0 South Suburban) had a number of brutal stat lines throughout their roster: Mar’Keise Irving went 1-for-12, Dylan West went 3-for-17, Kenton Wright went 2-for-13, Jeremiah Staten went 1-for-7. Julius Rollins was the Hawks’ clear standout of the night and the only player who managed any semblance of efficiency, shooting 7-for-15 for 17 points along with 12 rebounds.
Nevertheless, Hillcrest still had a very legitimate chance of winning the game after tying it 44-44 with two minutes left. Then Simeon scored the next 10 straight points.
“We turned the ball over and didn’t execute down the stretch,” coach Don Houston said. “It’s too late in the season for us to be making these mistakes. We’ve got to get over them so we can finish the conference (season) strong.”
Houston said he expected to Simeon to run a more complex offensive scheme than what eventually transpired, and indeed, his defense performed admirably.
But the same could not be said of his own offense, which missed three-pointers in abundance and put up a lot of forced, contested shots around the rim.
“We knew they relied on the three-ball,” Thomas said. “We wanted to run them off that three-point line and make them turn to driving so our shot-blockers could block shots. That was the game plan.”
Tags: Hillcrest, Simeon
— Ben Pope (@BenPope111) January 13, 2019