HINSDALE, Ill. – Simeon coach Robert Smith wasn’t sure what he was going to get from junior forward Steve Taylor in Tuesday’s Class 4A Hinsdale Central super-sectional.
Taylor had missed the previous two days with a groin injury. Smith was hoping for the best, but wasn’t certain.
Taylor never doubted he was going to be fine, and he was right.
Showing why he’s considered the state’s top junior prospect, Taylor scored a team-high 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and came up with two steals in No. 1 Simeon’s 74-61 win over No. 7 Farragut.
With the win, the Wolverines are headed down to Peoria again to defend their Class 4A state title. They’ll play No. 8 Glenbard East in the state semifinals on Friday.
“I put an ice pack on it,” said Taylor of his injury. “I didn’t feel it. … I didn’t get to play downstate last year, so I’m super excited about it.”
Smith was excited about Taylor’s play. He scored inside with layups and dunks. He scored around the basket with hooks. He scored from deep with 3-pointers.
“It was one of his best games in a while,” Smith said. “That’s why he’s the best player in the state.”
Simeon (28-2) punched its ticket to Peoria in the early going of Tuesday’s game. The Wolverines pounced on Farragut with a 9-0 run and built a 14-5 lead after one quarter. By halftime, their advantage was up to double digits.
“We usually come out slow,” Taylor said. “For us to come out on top of things and come out hard, I feel comfortable with that. I think we can win if we keep coming out the way we’ve been coming out.”
Farragut’s 1-2 punch of Gabriel Williams and Demetrius Tolliver was able to at least make the game entertaining in the second half. Going back and forth, the duo hit shot after shot, never allowing Simeon to feel too comfortable until the final buzzer.
Tolliver scored 17 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter. Williams’ points were more spread out, but he finished with a game-high 29. Both connected on five 3-pointers.
Despite Farragut’s second-half push, Simeon was able to stay in front -- thanks to its free-throw shooting. The Wolverines were 21 of 30 from the line in the fourth quarter.