Like old times, Warren soars to regional title

This one felt like old times.

It wasn't Brandon Paul vs. Jereme Richmond, but Warren and Waukegan brought some familiar intensity to the Almond Campus gym in Gurnee.

There was a decent scoring duel as well. Warren freshman Jaxson Davis tallied 25 points to lead the top-seeded Blue Devils to a 67-55 victory and the school's first regional title since 2012. Waukegan senior Joseph Worthington hit his first 6 shots from 3-point range and finished with 23.

From 1988-2012, Warren won 19 regional titles. The Blue Devils (29-4) move on to face DeKalb on Tuesday at Rock Valley College in Rockford.

“They gave us a really good game and gave us everything we could handle,” Warren coach Zack Ryan said. “They made a lot of shots and made it a fun game to be here for. Happy we pulled it out, happy for our guys to do it on our home court and see what we can do next.”

Warren got off to a fast start, jumping to an 11-point lead as junior Jack Wolf scored 8 points in the opening quarter. But Waukegan started hitting 3s, creating turnovers and rallied to take a lead.

Early in the second quarter, Worthington buried a 3 and was whistled for a technical foul on the way back downcourt. The technical seemed to catch the whole gym by surprise and Davis hit both free throws, but the Bulldogs got a defensive stop and it seemed to be no big deal.

Then early in the third quarter, Davis pump-faked Worthington into the air and drew his fourth foul. Suddenly the technical, which counts as a personal foul, was a huge deal. Davis may be a freshman, but he knew what he was doing.

“He's the smartest player I've ever coached and maybe have ever seen,” Ryan said. “He just does things that I can't coach. He's really special.”

Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw sent a sub to the scorer's table, but before the next stoppage in play, Worthington knocked down 3 more 3-pointers.

The Bulldogs stayed within striking distance, but Worthington cooled off when he did go to the bench and Warren slowly pulled away. The Devils had a variety of contributors with Javerion Banks scoring 13, Wolf and Immanuel Brown had 9 each and Alex Daniels added 7. With Waukegan's defense swarming, Davis would calmly drive into the lane and either score himself or dish off an assist.

“As a point guard, I feel like that's my job out here,” Davis said. “Coach gave the keys to me, so I feel like I need to run it.”

Waukegan won a regional title as recently as 2019, but Ashlaw felt like this was a comeback year for the Bulldogs, who start two sophomores.

“That was a big, big goal for the season,” he said. “However it turned out, to get back to winning, get back to excitement and playing fast and playing tough and playing aggressive. We're kind of back in that direction now. It's sad to lose, but it feels good how we got to this point again.”

Warren and Waukegan getting ready for Friday's regional championship game in Gurnee. Photo by Mike McGraw
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.