Jereme Richmond does not necessarily believe Waukegan is better than the team which lost last year's Class 4A boys basketball state championship game to Whitney Young.
But the Illinois-bound Richmond pinpointed the area where this year's Bulldogs may have an edge after they topped Young 59-42 in Saturday night's rematch in the 15th annual City-Suburban Showdown at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago.
"We're more focused," said the 6-foot-7 McDonald's All-American, who had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. "Last year we snuck up on everybody but this year we kind of expect greatness from ourselves.
"I wouldn't say we're better but we're definitely more focused and definitely more serious."
The Bulldogs (20-4) showed it as their intense man-to-man, trapping defense took its toll and forced Young (17-6) into 19 of its 22 turnovers in the first three quarters. And that was without starting senior point guard Mike Springs, who missed the weekend because of academic ineligibility but will return for Wednesday's Central Suburban League title game at Deerfield.
"We lose a little of our defensive edge," Richmond said.
"I don't know if we got used to it, but we had confidence because of it," Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw said of playing without Springs in Friday's win over Evanston. "We have some other weapons. We play well together regardless of combinations."
It showed as Aaron Johnson scored 12 points but also held Oregon State-bound guard Ahmad Starks to 8 points on 3-for-8 shooting.
"We preached to Aaron to work his tail off and cut the head of the snake off early," Richmond said, "and he did a great job."
Quan Connor scored all 13 of his points and hit three 3-pointers as Waukegan broke away from a 19-16 halftime lead. Akeem Springs also had 12 points while Anthony Johnson was Young's only double-figure scorer with 17 points.
"Last year I had to score 25-30 points but this year we've found many guys who have my back a little more," Richmond said. "It's allowed me more freedom offensively and defensively."
Anthony Johnson led Young with 17 points.
DeLaSalle 64, Simeon 46: DeLaSalle and 6-8 junior Mike Shaw made a statement this week for the rest of the state.
Don't be fooled by the Meteors record since its only in-state loss was to Lake Forest Academy in November. DeLaSalle (16-6) followed up wins over Mt. Carmel on Tuesday and Leo on Friday by taking command early and never letting go against Simeon (19-9).
"Everybody put everything into it and we have a chance to do something special," said Shaw, who had a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. "We have a big target on our back now. Everybody wants to beat us so we have to keep going hard and we can't take a day off."
D.J. Bland added 14 points for the Meteors. Darien Walker led Simeon with 11 points.
"It was an unbelievable week playing all these ranked teams," said DLS coach Tom White. "We've been getting ready for this."
Mt. Carmel 52, St. Patrick 45: Mt. Carmel didn't resemble the seventh-ranked team in the state in Class 4A in The Associated Press state poll as it fell behind 20-7 in the second quarter.
But the Caravan (21-4) recovered to finally take the lead late in the first quarter and pull away behind a game-high 21 points from junior guard Tracy Abrams in the opener of the triple-header.
"There wasn't a hangover at all, but we just weren't aggressive enough as a team," Abrams, who has verbally committed to Illinois, said of consecutive losses to Hales Franciscan and DeLaSalle before a 20-point win over Fenwick on Friday. "The big gym with a lot of people might have affected the way some of us played."
Jon Gac added 10 points and Adonis Filer 9 for the Caravan. St. Patrick (14-10), which lost 68-56 to St. Viator on Friday, got 13 points from Julian Reed but junior Jacob Williams had only 5 points in 16 1-2 minutes and fouled out with 6:24 to play.