A new season tipped off on Monday at DePaul’s McGrath-Phillips Arena. But in some ways, it was just the second chapter of the burgeoning Kenwood vs. Young rivalry that sparked last season.
Or is it a rivalry? After Young beat Kenwood in the supersectionals last season Dolphins coach Tyrone Slaughter said “There is no rivalry. They have no state championships and we have five. They have created a rivalry. You have to beat someone to have a rivalry.”
Slaughter doubled down on his remark when his team emerged on Monday wearing warmup shirts that read “We have no rival.”
Whatever the status, fans of both schools packed the gym for the season opener between No. 3 Kenwood and No. 5 Young. It came down to the final seconds and the Broncos pulled out a 46-44 victory.
The warmup shirts hit a nerve with Kenwood.
“They were basically calling us trash,” Broncos guard Dai Dai Ames said. “So we showed them we aren’t trash.”
Isaiah Green was the hero. The Hillcrest transfer was playing in his first game for Kenwood and stepped up at the end after Ames fouled out with a minute remaining. Green drove to the basket and scored to put the Broncos ahead by two points with 21 seconds left.
Young had a chance to win or tie but Dalen Davis’ drive to the basket missed and Kenwood’s Edwon Duling secured the rebound.
Broncos coach Mike Irvin and his team celebrated wildly at the buzzer. Irvin beat his chest at center court.
“I need my theme music because I feel like dancing,” Irvin said. “We have the best coach in the city, we have the best players in the city and I’m going to show everybody.”
Ames led Kenwood with 14 points and Green scored 10. Jaden Smith, a highly-regarded 6-10 junior, is starting to live up to his promise. Smith had seven points and seven rebounds.
“That was the arrival of Jaden Smith,” Irvin said. “I trust him. He fought tonight and was great in the second half.”
Smith played sparingly last season after transferring from Lincoln Park.
“This year I have a way bigger role and I’m excited to step into it,” Smith said. “We have a good group that is jelling.”
Seven players scored for Young in the first quarter and that balance held up throughout the game. Dalen Davis and Sean Brown each finished with 11 points. Brown had eight boards and Daniel Johnson added nine points and 11 rebounds for Young.
“They made some plays and we didn’t make plays,” Slaughter said. “We had an opportunity to tie or take the lead but we didn’t get a good shot. But you know, first game. We’ll take it.”
Young led 28-20 at halftime but Kenwood clawed back during the second half and tied the score at 39 on a shot from Smith in the post with 4:40 left.
“He’s been working on that shot every practice,” Ames said. “I’m glad he has the confidence to take it in a real game.”
Young and Kenwood could meet three more times this season. Both teams are in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament and may run into each other in the city and state playoffs.
Despite the loss, Slaughter was not ready to call Kenwood vs. Young a rivalry.
“You can tell by the way the game ended and their emotions that they wanted to beat us,” Slaughter said. “We were happy they felt good about it. Because we know the last time we played it was the end of the year, not the beginning of the year.
It’s not a rivalry. As our shirts say, we have no rivals. It’s a good game for the kids to play and a good game for fans of basketball and the city. But until something different happens I’m not prepared to say it’s a rivalry.”
Watch the final minute of Kenwood vs. Young: