Simeon talks big in advance of title game

PEORIA, Ill. – It wasn’t as if Saturday’s Class 4A state championship between No. 1 Simeon vs. No. 2
Proviso East needed additional drama.

No. 1 vs. No. 2 is more than enough for anyone.

But Simeon (32-1) upped the ante Friday by taking a few shots at Proviso East (32-0) after both teams had advanced to the title game.

Simeon senior forward Steve Taylor first knocked undefeated Proviso East’s schedule.

“Yes, I want to play them because that’s the game everybody wants to see,” Taylor said after Simeon defeated Bloom on Friday. “They’re undefeated, and I feel they haven’t played anybody, so now they’re playing us.”

Proviso East’s schedule wasn’t a national one like Simeon’s this season, but Pirates coach Donnie Boyce took exception to Taylor’s statement.

“Everybody says we hadn’t beat anybody, but we played a lot of good teams and made them look a lot worse than they are,” Boyce said on Saturday morning. “That Rockford Auburn team we beat Friday, we gave them two of their three losses this season. New Trier was playing pretty well when we beat them around Christmas time. Downers Grove South, Warren, we beat them.

“We haven’t played a national schedule like Simeon, but to say we haven’t played anybody. Tonight, we’re playing somebody.”

Simeon coach Robert Smith also took a few jabs at Proviso East. Even though both teams looked sluggish Friday, he said he still thought Simeon was more impressive. Later when asked if Proviso East’s up-tempo style might give his team fits like Peoria Manual’s similar style did at the Pontiac holiday tournament, Smith took another shot at the Pirates.

“I think to me the difference is I think Manual is a little tougher than them,” Smith said. “Bogan, Curie, Evanston, Bloom, everyone has tried everything. None of it has worked. I don’t know if it’s going to work or not (for Proviso East.) These guys are going to find a way to win.

“I feel this group right there, these 15 young men, we can beat any team in the country. If Findlay Prep would like to come down here (Saturday) or Sunday, and we’ll play them, too, and I guarantee we’ll win that game, too.”

Boyce had read what Smith said, but he refused to get into a war of words.

“That’s fine,” Boyce said. “They can say whatever they want. I’m a little surprised, but it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, tonight come 8 o’clock, they have to back those words up and we have to back our record up. We’re just going to let them talk. They’re the two-time defending champs.

“If we stick to our system, try to control the tempo, make it as tough as possible for Jabari Parker, Kendrick Nunn and Steve Taylor, I like our chances.”