PONTIAC — One last Pontiac Holiday Tournament for the United Township Panthers. But not before one last domination by Chicago Simeon and now-Duke-bound Jabari Parker.|
UT coach Marc Polite confirmed after Simeon's 77-20 rout in the first round of the tournament on Thursday that the Panthers next year will be in the Pekin Holiday Tournament field instead.
Not, though, before being Parker fodder for a second straight year — last year in the second round and this year on day one.
It was Parker's first game since committing to the No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils, and he sure put on a show for the sold-out Pontiac gymnasium crowd. The 6-foot-8 senior made 7-of-9 field goals, 4-of-5 free throws and 2-of-4 3-pointers, to finish with 20 points and eight rebounds. Oh, and three monstrous two-handed slam dunks as the fans' appetizer.
"I've seen him since he was a freshman," said Polite, "but what surprised me the most was how big he is. He was next to (UT assistant coach) David Robinson, who is 6-6, and he was towering over David. I said to David, 'Just how big IS he?'"
What Parker also did is handle a pack of media postgame with aplomb.
"We want to play every possession hard," Parker said when asked how the Wolverines handled the obvious mismatch with 2-10 UTHS going in. "We want to play every team as if it's at state. We try to challenge ourselves."
More of a challenge will come as the Wolverines move down the Pontiac Tournament trail. This one was just a teaser.
Simeon was up 5-0 just 50 seconds into the game and did so with a Parker slam dunk, a Jaylon Tate steal and a Parker assist to a Kendrick Nunn slam. Tate and Nunn (5-of-8 field-goal shooting for 13 points) both are University of Illinois-bound.
That was just the start of the lopsided stat chart.
UT shot 17 percent from the field, 8-for-48; Simeon was 54 percent, 28-of-52. Simeon went to the line 26 times, making 18; UT didn't shoot a single free throw. Simeon had four turnovers at halftime, UT 17.
The Wolverines led 43-10 at the half. Even if only Simeon slam dunks counted, it would have been tied at 10 at halftime, with Parker getting three and Nunn a pair, all of them getting oohs and aahs as if they were runway model material.
"It was a combination of a lot of things," Polite understatingly said of the teams' comparison. "We knew, before we got here, that it would come to a point where we would see the top of the top of the top in the tournament in the first two rounds. Last year, it was the second round with Simeon; this year it was the first round.
"Still, I'm proud of my kids. They fought and they battled. They just couldn't make shots."
Deveric Rogers led the Panthers with 13 points. Tops on the boards was Cody Vroman with a half-dozen.
"We'll just refocus for our next game," which will be at 6 tonight in the consolation bracket.
Lose that game and the Panthers will hit the end of the tournament run. Unlike most of the other tournaments around the state, that's the way it is at Pontiac.
UT plans to fix that in 2013 as Pekin awaits.
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