By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
The up and coming boys basketball program at Kenwood Academy served notice last weekend they plan to be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years. The Broncos lost to heavily favored Simeon 54-49 in a tight contest played at Chicago State University Feb. 21. For the Broncos (19-4), it was their first time ever playing in the championship game. For Simeon (24-3), it was their seventh city title and first since 2012.
“I think this entire season has been a great experience for us and a confidence builder,” said Kenwood coach Marlo Finner. “Tonight we came up a bit short, but we have beaten some good teams in the city tournament and it should prepare us well for state next week.”
Simeon was led by Zack Norvell’s 18 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, along with point guard Evan Gilyard’s 16 points. The experienced Wolverines were able to overcome their own fatigue by winning their third game over a top-ranked opponent in as many days. Coach Robert Smith said this year’s squad has not been the most talented he has seen, but they had a key ingredient all championship teams must have.
“They have a lot of heart and perseverance and they have gotten better with each game,” Smith said.
That showed to be true in the game against Kenwood as the Wolverines won the rebounding battle. Fatigue could have been the cause for Simeon’s poor shooting but the hustle shown in going after loose balls and rebounds gave Simeon enough scoring opportunities.
“We did not want to lose this game,” said Norvell. “The city championship is just as important to us as state. It’s for bragging rights, playing against people you see on a regular basis if they are your friend or neighborhood rival. There was a lot riding on this.”
Smith said rebounding is all about heart and hustle. Simeon led in that category 33 to 27.
Kenwood was led by Zion Morgan’s 15 points and four rebounds. The Broncos struggled offensively in the second quarter, scoring only four points. That was the difference in the game, according to Finner.
“You can’t have a four point quarter against a team like Simeon. It’s putting you in a tough spot. Those eight minutes hurt us tonight, but again I think we will use this to learn from,” he said.
The Broncos took a 45-43 lead in the fourth quarter on a three-point shot by Robinson. But Kenwood missed five of their final six shots in the game and could not come up with key defensive stops late in the game.
“I’m not sure if it was the pressure from late in the game on this big stage or what, but we didn’t get it done,” said Robinson. “It was disappointing but we now look forward to state next week.”
The Chicago Public Schools will again be well represented in the state playoffs with several teams having a legitimate chance to win it all. Morgan Park, who lost to Simeon by one in the city semifinals, is the favored to win Class 3A. Simeon and Morgan Park will be competing in 4A while North Lawndale has moved up from 2A to 3A. Others with an outside chance include Bogan, Whitney Young and Marshall.