No. 1 St. Frances dispatches Illinois state champ at boys’ basketball mixer; No. 4 Poly fades against nationally-ranked Simeon (VIDEO HERE!!)
by Derek Toney
The end result was the same at the second Charm City vs. Windy City Showcase Saturday as St. Frances Academy won and event host Poly lost.
The tenor, however, was vastly different.
The top-ranked Panthers continued their impressive season with a 95-75 victory over Morgan Park in the opener. Elijah Epps had 19 points and seven assists for St. Frances (25-2 overall), and senior reserve Edward Ferguson added 17.
The east Baltimore private school led by as many as 28 points against the reigning Illinois Class 3A state champion, extending their winning streak to 10. Sophomore point guard Adrian Baldwin added 14 points and seven assists.
In an all too familiar script, St. Frances’ talent, depth and resourcefulness was the difference. Jordan Toles had 14 points and Rajear Jones finished with 12.
“As long as we continue to share the ball and care for each other, I think we got a chance to beat anybody in the country,” said St. Frances coach Nick Myles.
A year ago, St. Frances defeated Morgan Park, on Baldwin’s follow-up at the buzzer. The Panthers trailed by 19 points in the second half.
It was arguably the biggest highlight of the season for the Panthers, which finished 15-19. Their only losses this season are to nationally-ranked and reigning Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champ Gonzaga College (DC) and New York’s Lincoln.
The Panthers only lost once over the summer (won team camp titles at Maryland and Norfolk State) and fall (won their league) offseason.
“We’re the only ones who believed we would be in this position,” said Ferguson, who will play for North Carolina A&T next season. “We just keep fighting.”
St. Frances wouldn’t need a spirited rally this time against Morgan Park, ranked No. 6 in the Chicago metro region by the Chicago Tribune. The Panthers hit 14 3-pointers, constantly finding the open man.
Morgan Park (16-8), which briefly left the court over safety concerns, trailed 27-24 early in the second. Epps, who scored all 19 of his points in the opening half, started a 12-3 response with a basket, and scored the Panthers’ final six points of the half.
“We’ve been putting in the extra work,” said Epps. “I’ve been telling my teammates stay together and fight. That’s what we’ve been doing lately.”
Up 10 points on Simeon in the second half, Poly was primed for another landmark victory. The fourth-ranked Engineers weren’t able to pull off the upset, falling, 71-64, to Chicago’s No. 1 squad.
Iowa State-bound wing Talen Horton-Tucker scored 34 points for Simeon (20-3), ranked 10th in the latest USA Today Super 25, and Xavier Pinson added 15. Sophomore guard Raheem Ali led Poly (9-4) with 19 points and Justin Lewis added 18.
Leading 47-37 midway in the third, the Cold Spring Lane school made just five shots the remainder of the game. Last year, Poly made a late fourth quarter push before falling, 69-68.
After nearly snatching victory from the jaws of defeat last year, Poly was left with a bitter taste Saturday.
“After shots weren’t falling, I thought we had a couple of guys trying to make some home run plays that weren’t necessary at the time,” said Engineers coach Sam Brand. “That’s been the story of some of our games lately.”
“It’s frustrating losing close games,” said Poly senior Demetrius Mims. “You got to lock in tighter, but if it doesn’t happen, you’re not going to come out with the win. We didn’t lock in offensively or defensively at the end of the game.”
Mims, the Engineers’ leading scorer who’s headed to Long Beach State, had only nine points Saturday as Simeon made the 6-foot-5 wing its defensive priority. With a balanced effort, Poly turned a 32-31 halftime advantage into a 47-37 advantage after a 3-pointer from Ali (five assists).
Simeon, sparked by a vicious dunk from Horton-Tucker, rallied, but the Engineers held a 53-50 lead going into the fourth.
Poly didn’t score its first basket until Lewis’ dunk with 3:08 left in regulation. The Engineers’ once double-digit lead became a 60-55 deficit.
The Engineers will have to regroup with a non-league matchup with No. 2 John Carroll School up next on Tuesday evening at Morgan State.
“To be up 10 in your own gym and not close it out, it’s a squandered opportunity,” said Brand. “We did the same thing with St. Frances and we’re going to have to learn to change up some things down the stretch to finish the game.”
Charm City vs. Windy City Showcase
No. 1 St. Frances Academy 95, Morgan Park (IL) 75
Morgan Park – Watson 28, A. Miller 19, Burrell 17, Groover 6, Jones 3, Duling 2. Totals 29 13-19 75.
St. Frances – Epps 19, Ferguson 17, Baldwin 14, Toles 14, Jones 12, Diop 8, Montague 4, Murphy 3. Totals 33 12-25 95.
Morgan Park 17 18 13 27 -75
St. Frances 25 20 22 28 – 95
Simeon (IL) 71, No. 4 Poly 64
Simeon – Clements 7, Young 2, Pinson 15, Jones 13, Horton-Tucker 34. Totals 23 19-23 71.
Poly – Mims 9, Horton 8, Walker 2, Jones 8, Lewis 18, Ali 19. Totals 24 7-8 64.
Simeon 21 10 19 21 – 71
Poly 19 13 21 11 – 64