Simeon All Access | Brunson not easy to solve for Wolverines

PEORIA — First it was Kendall Pollard. Then Kendrick Nunn. Jaylon Tate gave it a try next. A fresh Donte Ingram received the call too.

Four Simeon players had the same luck — very little — trying to guard Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson in the first half of the Class 4A title game at Carver Arena on Saturday night.

Brunson, the sophomore who put the Lincolnshire school on his back this season, wasn’t quite able to spoil Jabari Parker’s going-out party, but for 16 minutes he managed to turn the Class 4A championship game into a coming-out party as well.

The smooth, 6-foot lefty scored 13 of his 14 points in the first half of Stevenson’s 58-40 loss to the second Illinois team to win four consecutive state championships.

Of course, that means he scored just one after halftime as Tate and a host of help defenders put to rest any notion of an upset.

"I think there were more eyes watching me, and trying to create for my teammates was a little tougher," Brunson said. "We tried to adjust, but some things didn’t work out. On the plus side, we know what to do next year with the returning players we have. We have to come out really hard and make sure this doesn’t happen again."

Based on Brunson’s wizardry in front of the near-capacity crowd, fans can only hope Brunson, fellow sophomores Connor Cashaw and Cameron Green and the rest of the Patriots have another state run or two in them.

A terrific ballhandler with great body control and no wasted motion, Brunson was able to give the slip to every defender Simeon threw at him in the first half.

The Dayton-bound Pollard, a 6-foot-5 senior who has routinely guarded the opponent’s best player, fouled him on a 3-point attempt early in the first quarter and wound up sitting the final 2 minutes, 31 seconds of the half with three fouls.

With his future coach John Groce seated in the second row, the Illinois-bound Nunn was kept off-balance throughout his stint on Brunson and also picked up three first-half fouls.

Simeon’s struggles did not translate to the offensive end, however. Four straight points by Parker gave Simeon a 31-21 lead before Brunson hit a 3 to cut the Patriots’ deficit to 31-24 at the half.

"They’re an all-star team, literally and figuratively," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "If you ask me about Simeon, that’s going to be my answer. We had a hard time guarding the kid from Leo (Russell Woods), we had a hard time guarding the kid from De La Salle (Jaylon Tate)."

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad