Jahlil Okafor made sure L.J. Peak knew how he felt after the first half of Young's 44-41 loss to Simeon at Chicago State on Saturday.
Peak needed to step up.
The 6-foot-4 Young junior guard scored two points before halftime but broke out in the second half to finish with a game-high 20.
“Jahlil just kept telling me, ‘Keep playing, keep playing. Your shot's going to fall in a minute,'” said Peak, who also had four steals. “So I just kept shooting.
“Jahlil kept getting on me. I had to pick it up.”
While Okafor was limited to eight total points, Peak's 14 third-quarter points pushed Young back into the game after it trailed by as many as 13. He also hit a jumper with 49.5 seconds to play that cut Simeon's lead to 42-41.
“He definitely made some big shots,” Simeon guard Kendrick Nunn said. “He was hot on the 3, so we had to get a hand up.”
Safety check: The slogans on the T-shirts Simeon and Young players wore during pregame warm-ups spoke loudly.
“Shoot jumpers. Not guns.”
Young coaches reached out to purchase the shirts from Dime Magazine, which started the non-profit campaign over the summer to speak out about gun violence.
The message came in the wake of the shooting death of a 17-year-old Morgan Park student following Simeon's game against Morgan Park at Chicago State on Jan. 16.
Despite the incident, fans filled most of the lower bowl of seats at Chicago State and some of the upper level after going through metal detectors before entering the gymnasium. Among the attendees for the game televised on ESPNU were Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Illinois coach John Groce.
Chicago Police Department superintendent Garry McCarthy said the security plan for the game was headed by Chicago Public Schools but also included the help of the Chicago State, Illinois state and Chicago police departments.
“We're not anticipating anything,” McCarthy said. “We're just taking precautions like we have to do.”
Reaching out: Simeon coach Robert Smith and Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin greeted each other with a hug at Chicago State on Saturday.
That was significant because the coaches were suspended by CPS for four games each Wednesday for their involvement in a postgame altercation between their teams Jan. 16. They sat courtside two seats apart Saturday. Simeon is being coached by assistant Leonard Thomas while Smith is out.
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