It's that time of year again.
For most folks out there, the holiday season signifies last-minute shopping, putting up the Christmas tree or maybe drinking a little egg nog.
Count me in for all the above. But these next few weeks for me also means holiday basketball tournaments. And lots of them. Time to gas up the car and see as many games as possible
(And pray the snowstorms hit on Sundays while I'm home watching football).
Here's a quick peek at the girls basketball tournaments on tap:
Sterling Shootout (Dec. 17-22): Montini returns for the second year, highlighting a strong field in a round-robin format. The Broncos open up against 2009 Class 3A champion and fifth-ranked Peoria Richwoods, which features one of the best players in the state in Princeton-bound senior Mariah Smith. Moline, ranked No. 9 in 4A, handed Montini its first loss last year. Hononegah, No. 5 in 4A, has Rockford Boylan transfer Bria Edwards, 6-foot-4 Wisconsin-bound junior Nicole Smith and is 7-0 with an average margin of victory of over 40 points. Host Sterling is No. 9 in 3A.
Benet/Naperville North Tournament (Dec. 16-22): Geneva has dominated the round-robin event in its two years there. Kat Yelle, Ashley Santos and Co. should be considered the favorite again but will be challenged. Their biggest test could come opening night against fast-starting Wheaton Warrenville South, led by Annie Shain and a host of young, athletic freshmen and sophomores like Allie Zappia. Benet and a host of guards led by Sidney Prasse and Danielle Canulli is another team that could win it.
Wheaton North Tournament (Dec. 20-23): Waubonsie Valley, which lost to Hersey in last year's championship game, is the top seed in the 16-team event and comes off impressive wins over Naperville Central and Neuqua Valley. All eyes will be on Hersey's Megan Rogowski, though. The DePaul-bound senior lit up Waubonsie for 31 points in last year's final and put up a school-record 42 in a win this week. The Huskies could draw host Wheaton North, which has its own star power in Bradley recruit Fantasia Vine, in one semifinal. Don't overlook unbeaten fourth seed Glenbard South and 6-foot-4 Nevena Markovic, off to the school's best start since 2005.
Oswego Holiday Classic (Dec. 11-18): Undefeated Hampshire is the top seed, led by senior Alex Dumoulin. The team to beat, though, could be Neuqua Valley. The Wildcats, coming off their first loss of the season against Waubonsie, open with Batavia Saturday. Their toughest game in pool play should be Wednesday versus host Oswego and Paige Harmon. Don't be surprised if Megan Doody and Neuqua meet Hampshire in the Dec. 18 championship.
Montini Holiday Tournament (Dec. 27-30): The top-ranked Broncos could get one of their stiffest tests of the season here. Marian Catholic is among the top five teams in the Chicago area, led by seniors Simone Law (committed to Loyola) and Jasmine Matthews (Bowling Green). Those two teams could meet in the final Dec. 30. Montini will finish pool play Dec. 28 against Columbus North (Ind.), one of the top 10 teams in Indiana's large-school class led by Miami (Ohio) recruit Courtney Larson.
Dundee-Crown Tournament (Dec. 27-30): New Trier ended Fenwick's five-year run as tournament champion last year when Friars star Tricia Liston was out with mononucleosis. Liston's now at Duke, but Fenwick is again among the teams to beat at the suburbs' best-known event now in its 28th year. Unbeaten Bartlett, No. 2 in the Daily Herald rankings and led by Wisconsin-bound Jacki Gulczynski, could make a strong statement if it wins it all at Dundee-Crown and avenges last year's sectional loss to Fenwick. Hononegah and New Trier round out the top seeds. Naperville Central, 2-2 at Dundee-Crown last year, returns. The Redhawks last won it all when a certain Candace Parker wore red and white.
Oswego East Tournament (Dec. 27-30): West Chicago, which beat Lemont in last year's final, is the top seed. The Wildcats could match up with an improved Addison Trail team and standout guard Jazmin Little in the championship.
Lisle Tournament (Dec. 27-30): Area teams Immaculate Conception, Timothy Christian and the host Lions figure to contend here. Defending champion IC and Allie DiVito are off to a 7-4 start. Ex-IC coach Dan Murray and Lisle is 7-2 and riding a six-game win streak. The top three seeds are once-beaten St. Edward, followed by unbeatens Westmont and Newark.