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Another state trip for North Chicago
By Bill Esbrook | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 3/14/2012 12:30 AM

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Marshall kept fouling North Chicago senior guard Aaron Simpson late in the fourth quarter of a tight contest at the Hoffman Estates Class 3A boys basketball supersectional.

Big mistake by the Commandos.

Simpson, who scored a game high 32 points, hit 10 free throws in the final minutes to help the Warhawks outlast Marshall 91-81 and make their second straight trip to the state's final four. This time they'll face Springfield Lanphier in a noon semifinal Friday at Carver Arena in Peoria.

"I felt that we were in control the whole way," said North Chicago coach Gerald Coleman, whose 24-6 team got a big assist from 6-foot-2 senior Marzhon Bryant - 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, and a game high-13 rebounds. "We made some mistakes to let them back in the game, but we've got veteran players who don't panic."

Marshall, which was led in scoring by by senior Korbin McLain (19 points), trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half but fought its way into a 70-67 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Then Simpson, who played the entire final quarter with 4 fouls, took over.

The senior nailed two straight NBA-length 3-pointers to give the lead back to the Warhawks.

"I have complete confidence in Aaron," said Coleman, who said he didn't consider keeping Simpson on the bench after his fourth foul with 11 seconds remaining in the third period. "He's an all-stater, and all-staters know how to play in any type of difficult situation."

"I've got confidence in my shot," added Simpson of the two long 3s. "After the first one my defender kind of backed up on me, so I knew I could hit the second one."

Marshall (24-8) got as close as 82-78 with a minute left but late foul shots by Simpson and Bryant put the game out of reach.

"When you go up against a great player like Simpson," said Marshall coach Henry Cotton, "you've got to just play and hope your kids can maintain. I'll tell you one thing, he earned every shot tonight - he's a tough kid."

Simpson added 9 rebounds for the winners, while sophomore teammate JaVairius Amos-Mays added 11 points and another soph, JayQuan McCloud, pitched in with 10.

"We made too many turnovers in the first half," said Coleman, "so at halftime I told the guys we had to make better decisions, play smart and cut down on our turnover rate, and we were able to do that."