POINT #1 .... The goal has remained the same for coach Robert Smith and the Simeon Wolverines: become the first Chicago Public League team to win back-to-back state championships. The schedule was loaded up with tough teams, atmospheres and circumstances in preparation for that second state title run. And with that state title, Simeon surely would have left a legacy worth talking about, especially with this being the final year of the two-class system. Now, however, Smith and Simeon are beginning to leave a different legacy--a state champion on the verge of being disliked by the fans of this state that cherish high school basketball so much.
Rumors have circulated for months regarding what Smith has said or didn't say regarding the showdown with St. Joseph in the City-Suburban Showdown at Northwestern Feb. 17. Now he has gone public with it and, as a result, is giving the program, school and Chicago Public League a black eye.
Any team, coach, member of the press or fan that has been involved with the tremendous event known as the City-Suburban Showdown, will quickly tell you what a class event it is. The showdown is a win-win situation for everyone involved, from the teams that play in it to the fans that get to enjoy it. And for Smith to accuse the Integrity Group of anything less, is just another reason for fans to turn their back on Simeon and its quest for another state championship.
Regardless of any circumstances, Simeon signed a contract to play St. Joseph. The arguments against playing the game are nonsense. The schedule Simeon put together this year, which is more demanding than any high school team in the state with the travel involved and quality of competition, is doing exactly what Smith hoped it would: win a second straight state title.
Simeon played three games in two days at Pontiac. They traveled across the country to Madison Square Garden to play and came home to play another game the next day. This is just another challenge for Simeon in its preparation for March.
In reality, it's sad to see what has become of this. The kids at Simeon deserve the accolades and attention they've received. And they deserve to play in what is the highest-profile game in Illinois this year.
POINT #2 .... The sectional seeding meetings are tonight (Wednesday, Feb. 7). I think one of the most interesting seeds will involve West Aurora. The Blackhawks are clearly better than their .500 record indicates. And their schedule has been tougher than any team in that sectional. But seeing how these seeding meetings have gone in the past, I fully expect the coaches to seed West Aurora in the 5-8 group. With that being said, I would sure hate to be one of the top four seeds that would have to face Gordie Kerkman's West Aurora club in a regional final.
POINT #3 .... Everyone is talking about the T.F. North-Thornwood showdown this Friday night. Yes, it's huge in the south suburbs and for SICA East supremacy. But the game the Hoops Report has been anticipating for weeks is the Richards-Hillcrest matchup on Friday. We will all find out a lot about both teams, especially the unbeaten Bulldogs of Richards. A loss to Hillcrest would not diminish the terrific start Richards has had. But a win over Hillcrest would truly solidify this team.