With 41 seconds remaining in the 3A Super Sectional matchup with Lemont, Simeon forward Miles Rubin strode to the free-throw line.
Lemont had cut a 12-point deficit heading into the fourth to just three points, and had fouled Rubin for the one-and-one.
He knocked down the first, just net. He shot the second: Same result.
Rubin and the Wolverines held on to beat Lemont 52-47, winning the UIC Super Sectional and advancing to the state semifinals.
Rubin finished with a game-high 22 points, adding seven rebounds and five blocks.
“I felt like if I got going early, I would be good at the end of games,” Rubin said. “That’s what I did.”
Simeon jumped out to a 17-5 lead after the first quarter on the backs of Rubin and twin brother Wesley Rubin, who counted for 10 points and eight rebounds at the end of the quarter. Lemont had no answer early for the 6-7 junior duo.
But Lemont hung around, forcing turnovers on Simeon’s experienced backcourt and getting timely threes from its role players. The team, minus sophomore sensation Nojus Indrusaitis, went 6-for-13 from three.
But Simeon’s defense on Indrusaitis was one of the keys to the game. He finished 3-for-14 overall and 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. Simeon junior guard Michael Ratliff keyed on Indrusaitis for much of the game, giving the Wolverines key bench minutes.
“He was huge,” Simeon coach Michael Smith said. “We got in some foul trouble early in the game. Michael Ratliff came in and gave us a big boost. That’s what he does. When these guys are tired … we bring Michael Ratliff in and he can play multiple positions. He’s a bigger kid, he’s stronger … he can crash the boards really well.
“It’s not about scoring for him,” Smith continued. “It’s about whatever we need in that moment.”
Ratliff finished second on the team in scoring with nine points, adding five rebounds.
Simeon guarantees its best season finish since 2016-17, when it was runner-up, losing to Whitney Young in 4A. It has won seven state titles overall, including four straight from 2010 to 2013.
“[Going to Champaign] is going to be a great opportunity for us,” Smith said. “We just want to be competitive and go down there and finish the job.
“I told the guys, ‘Enjoy this moment right now,'” he added. “I know some teams who were just satisfied with winning this game. And they didn’t do what they were supposed to do. We just want to stay locked in, and get prepared and get ready for the next game.”
For Lemont, junior guard Matas Castillo led the way with 16 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 from the stripe down the stretch. He’s among the 10 Lemont players who are juniors or younger.
“The thing I love about this team is they have the audacity to think they’re gonna win this game,” Lemont head coach Rick Runaas said. “These guys aren’t afraid of anybody. They want to play a tough schedule. They want to play good teams. They cherish the moment. I think we’ll learn from it, and I think these guys coming back will be hungry for more.”