Simeon wants to send retiring coach Robert Smith out with a city championship.
Kenwood coach Mike Irvin smiled and agreed.
“We want to send Rob out too,” Irvin said.
There’s no animosity between the two coaches, it isn’t even a real rivalry between the schools. But this is a special moment for the Broncos, who have played in just one city championship game and never won a title.
“[Smith] has set the standards high for Chicago basketball,” Irvin said. “So this is a great way for Kenwood to get this championship. I wouldn’t want it any other way. We respect everything Simeon has done.”
The Broncos won 46-43 at Simeon in early January. Irvin celebrated wildly. It was the first time Kenwood (23-5) had ever beaten the Wolverines. That was the low point of Simeon’s season, losing at home in Smith’s final season, and it will provide some fire for the Wolverines.
“We’ve been talking about the city championship since day one,” Smith said. “This isn’t about me. It’s about the kids and their chance to win a city championship. I’ve won before, so it isn’t a big thing for me.”
Simeon (25-3) has won 10 city titles and played in 17 championship games. Smith has won seven.
“We know the history of Simeon,” Irvin said. “I played against Simeon. I’ve beaten them several times in my career, playing and coaching.”
Kansas State recruit Dai Dai Ames was excellent in the first matchup. He didn’t allow the Rubin Twins’ shot-blocking ability to alter his game, scoring 20 points.
The Broncos won that first game defensively, forcing Simeon into 17 turnovers. Ames had four steals.
The Wolverines haven’t tightened that part of their game up yet. They may be leaking the ball more now than they were back in early January.
Kenwood senior Solomon Mosley grew up playing against Simeon’s 6-10 Rubin twins, Miles and Wes, and was comfortable battling them in the post. That’s another mark in the Broncos’ favor. Jaden Smith, a 6-11 junior, wasn’t much of a factor for Kenwood in the first matchup but has been more assertive lately and could make an impact.
Simeon will be hoping to get more out of Toledo recruit Sam Lewis. He didn’t play much in the second half of the first matchup. His shooting ability and slashes to the basket could make a major dent in Kenwood’s zone defense.
Expect a good crowd at UIC’s Credit Union One Arena. The game is at 4 p.m. and will be televised live on CW26.
“The city needs to come out,” Irvin said. “This should excite the fanbase of Chicago basketball. It’s an up-and-coming heavyweight against the established champs. Get your popcorn.”