By Michael Wojtychiw
Saturday’s matchup between Kenwood and Simeon for the Chicago Public League title matched an up-and-coming team looking to make its name in Kenwood and a team that’s been to the title game on numerous occasions in Simeon.
The Broncos were making only their second appearance in the title game, while the Wolverines were in their 16th championship game.
The experience paid off down the stretch, even if it looked as if it wouldn’t in the fourth quarter, as the Wolverines held off the Broncos 72-64 in overtime Saturday at Credit Union1 Arena.
“There wasn’t extra stress,” Simeon’s Wesley Rubin said about playing in his coach’s last Public League game. “We knew what we had to do, and we’ve known since day one. We came out here and accomplished our goal.”
The Wolverines were in control for most of the game, getting their lead up to 22 points with 7 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the game.
But that’s when the Broncos started their comeback. After Michael Ratliff gave the Wolverines a 55-33 lead after the fourth quarter’s first possession, Kenwood went on a 24-4 run and all of the sudden, the lead was down to 59-57 with around two minutes left in the game.
Dai Dai Ames drained a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left and Simeon couldn’t convert on the final possession so for the second time in two games, off to overtime the Wolverines went tied 62-62.
Simeon coach Robert Smith said it was because of something he saw in the four-overtime win on Thursday that prevented him from calling a timeout to set up the final play with just seconds remaining.
“I was thinking about Curie,” he said. “Every time [Curie] had the ball in overtime they called a time out to let us set up our defense. [Kenwood] could have switched and put a better defensive player on the floor. I didn’t want to them to have that opportunity. Plus I didn’t know if I had any time outs left.
“I had seniors on the court, someone to make a play. We had the ball. We were to hit the last shot or go to overtime and see what happens.”
The win sends Smith off with yet another city title, a record eighth title as a coach, as he prepares for retirement after this season.
“[That win] did feel better than usual,” Smith said. “We did it. After everything we’ve been through all year, our defense held up in those last two minutes of overtime.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. It probably will later. Earlier today I was thinking about games I played in before and all the seasons I’ve coached.”
Once the game went to overtime, however, the Simeon defense that kept Kenwood at bay in the second and thor quarters came back, as the Wolverines held the Broncos with out a field goal in the extra four minutes. Kenwood’s only points came on Ames’ two free throws.
Like in Thursday’s semifinal game, Miles Rubin came up big defensively for the Wolverines, following up a six-block game against Curie with a five-block game Saturday against Kenwood.
“When the other team drives into the paint, I’m there to stop it, my team depends on it,” he said. “It’s more experience and has gotten better over time.”
The two teams now get ready for the state playoffs, which start in a couple of weeks. Kenwood earned the top seed in the Class 4A St. Rita Sectional, while Simeon is the top-seeded team in the Class 3A Glenbard South Sectional.
“We are building something special over here,” Irvin said. “Keep watching, it is coming. We are going to keep our eyes on the prize. The plan was to win city. We didn’t win it. But we are going to win a state championship. We won’t let the fans down. There is still something to look forward to.”
Wesley Rubin led the Wolverines with 21 points, while Miles Rubin added 15, Sam Lewis 13 and Jalen Griffith 11. Ames scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Broncos, while Isaiah Green added 11 and Chris Riddle 10, both off of the bench.