Verdell Jones Leads Maroons to State Tourney

Champaign Central, led by guard Verdell Jones with a team-high 16 points, defeated Mt. Vernon 44-37 in the Springfield Class 3A Supersectional Tuesday to advance to the state tournament, where they will face two-time defending champ Chicago Simeon. The last time Central advanced to the state tourney, their star senior, Clyde Turner, would become a future Gopher. Could history repeat itself?

The 1969 Champaign Central team made some late-season starting lineup changes, won a tight game to advance to the Elite Eight and defeated Mount Vernon en route to the state tournament.

This year, 6-foot-5 senior Chris Lehmann replaced suspended Jerry Exum in the starting lineup for each of the Maroons' first four postseason wins. They defeated previously unbeaten Decatur Eisenhower 65-63 in front of Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith and assistant Vince Taylor Friday and beat Mt. Vernon to make it to the state tournament.


Champaign Central (24-7) will face Simeon (28-3) at 1:45 p.m. Friday in Peoria for the right to play for the 3A championship. Simeon defeated T.F. North 43-40 in the Class 3A supersectional at Chicago State.

Simeon, which was led by current Memphis freshman Derrick Rose the past few seasons, features Stan Simpson, a transfer from Leo. Simpson had received early recruiting interest from Minnesota and signed with Illinois. His 12 points led Simeon to their win over T.F. North. They also have Division II signees Kenyon Smith (Illinois State) and Pierre Sneed (Ball State). The Wolverines are ranked 13th nationally by USA Today.

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