Class 3A state champion Peoria Central believes it can defeat Simeon.
Class 4A state champion Simeon believes it can defeat Peoria Central.
Who’s right? We’ll never know.
Peoria Central and Simeon never played during the 2011-12 regular season and did not meet in the state playoffs because they were in different classes. Prior to the IHSA going to four classes in the 2007-08 season, the two teams would have met in Class AA and could have decided it on the court.
“It is one of the pitfalls,” Peoria Central coach Dan Ruffin said of the four-class system on Tuesday. “The question still comes up, ‘Are you still seeing the best Illinois has to offer with the system we have with the classes divided up. Are we giving the best teams an opportunity to perform at state?’”
Simeon coach Robert Smith went through a similar debate in 2010 when Hillcrest won the Class 3A state championship and Simeon won the Class 4A state title.
“I guess that’s why some people like only the two classes, so you can figure it out and everybody can play everyone,” Smith said. “I don’t think they had that many debates when it was A and AA.”
Smith does believe the two best teams in Illinois played for a state championship this year with his Wolverines facing Proviso East in the Class 4A title game. Simeon was ranked No. 1 the entire season and didn’t lose to an in-state team. Proviso East was ranked No. 2 and was undefeated before losing to Simeon 50-48 in Peoria on Saturday.
“It’s not even close who the best team in the state is,” Smith said. “The best two teams in the state played and [other teams weren’t] close.”
Ruffin, whose team went 28-3 this season, disagrees with Smith. Ruffin believes Peoria Central could beat Simeon. Peoria Central defeated Hillcrest and North Chicago, two Chicago-area teams, on its way to the Class 3A state championship over the weekend.
“Do I think we could give them a game? That’s funny,” Ruffin said. “I think we would be able to hold on, and we could really probably beat them as often as they could beat us. I think we match up well.
“I think our guards are better. We have big men who can guard their big men. They don’t have a big advantage there. Jabari [Parker], we have someone who could guard him on the floor and when he comes to the basket. We’re going to bring some problems to them because they don’t handle pressure well.”
Although Peoria Central and Simeon can’t determine which team is better this season, both would like the IHSA consider a way of doing so in the future.
“Maybe there could be something where the state champions play each other?” Smith said. “Maybe the second-place teams play each other, too? There wouldn’t be a problem with that.”
Ruffin did agree with Smith on that.
“That would be a great idea,” Ruffin said. “What teams are best? You’ll know. Bring all your champions together, and that would be a great weekend. That’s another weekend the IHSA could make some money. It would be the tournament of champions.”