The Jacobs Holiday Tournament is always competitive, but this year's quality field could make for one of the more exciting weeks in the tournament's history.
The five-day, 16-team, 40-game basketball extravaganza, which begins Saturday and continues Dec. 20-23, features 12 teams with records of .500 or better.
"I looked at the pools when they came out and I didn't think there was one easy one," said Huntley coach Marty Manning, whose Red Raiders won the Sycamore Thanksgiving Tournament. "There's a lot of quality.
"It's a very even tournament as well. I don't think there's a runaway favorite. St. Charles North is under .500 and they may be the best team there."
St. Charles North (3-5) has reached the title game at Jacobs three years running only to finish second each time. The North Stars will compete in the same pool as defending champion Barrington (6-3), Crystal Lake South (4-3) and Prairie Ridge (1-5).
St. Charles North and Barrington will square off in a rematch of the 2009 title game on Monday at 3 p.m.
"It's going to be challenging," North Stars coach Tom Poulin said of the tournament. "Our pool, those are all tough games and well coached teams.
"That's always just a fun tournament. I love the people that run it. We have a great time. I know the kids look forward to it. Those bus rides on consecutive days go a long way, I believe, to us coming together at that point in the season."
CL South launches the tournament bright and early Saturday morning with a matchup against Barrington at 9 a.m. The Gators resume play Monday with a rematch against crosstown rival Prairie Ridge, a team CL South defeated 66-46 on Dec. 4.
Jacobs will compete in the same pool as Tilden (3-2), Elk Grove (3-4) and Mundelein (6-2).
The Golden Eagles' chances hinge partly on the injury status of guard Nick Hofman, who was forced to leave a loss to Barrington on Tuesday when he felt pain in his surgically reconstructed knee. The senior is the team's leading scorer at 14 ppg after missing most of last season.
Hofman was examined Wednesday and fitted for a brace molded to his knee. He was given the go ahead to resume play after a couple of days rest, according to his coach.
"They don't think any further damage occurred," Jacobs coach Jim Hinkle said. "They think scar tissue just ripped off when he went down. We hope that's it. They said rest it and then try it and see how it feels.
"Right now, Nick and I are having an argument. If I win the argument, he won't play until Saturday. If he wins he'll play Friday (at Johnsburg)."
Jacobs closes Day 1 of the tournament on Saturday with a tilt against Tilden at 7:30 p.m.
Bartlett (5-4) is showing signs of heating up after two straight quality wins over Elgin (5-2) and CL South. The Hawks could take a big step toward reaching the tournament semifinals if they win their opening game on Saturday at noon against Crystal Lake Central (6-1), which won it own Thanksgiving Tournament. The Class 3A Tigers are 3-0 against Class 4A competition this season.
"Crystal Lake Central really gets up on you in that man-to-man and plays good defense," Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. "We'll come into that game after facing frenetic Elgin and that zone by Crystal Lake South, so this is definitely an interesting week for us in terms of the different styles we're seeing."
Rounding out the pool with Bartlett and CL Central are Cary-Grove (3-4) and St. Edward (3-3). Those teams face each other Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Huntley (5-1) and Marian Central (4-4) will compete in the same pool with Zion-Benton (6-2) and red-hot Chicago Hope Academy (8-1)
Hope, a Class 1A school, has won seven straight games since Huntley deconstructed the Eagles at the Sycamore Thanksgiving Tournament on Nov. 26, 71-45.
"The fact we beat them by that much was a fluke," Manning said. "They'll be out for blood."
The Red Raiders have gotten off to a good start despite missing senior Dylan Neukirch, the team's second-leading scorer a year ago. The 6-foot-3 forward could be cleared by his doctor Friday to resume play. He has yet to play this season due to a broken hand.
Manning said Neukirch will likely see his first action on Monday, when Huntley faces Zion-Benton at 1:30 p.m. The Red Raiders begin tournament play against Marian Central on Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Jacobs Holiday Tournament championship game is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Jacobs Golden Eagle Classic
Saturday, Dec. 18
Crystal Lake South vs. Barrington, 9 a.m.
Prairie Ridge vs. St. Charles North, 10:30 a.m.
Bartlett vs. Crystal Lake Central, noon
Cary-Grove vs. St. Edward, 1:30 p.m.
Zion-Benton vs. Hope Academy, 3 p.m.
Elk Grove vs. Mundelein, 4:30 p.m.
Huntley vs. Marian Central, 6 p.m.
Jacobs vs. Tilden, 7:30 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 20
Crystal Lake Central vs. Cary-Grove, 9 a.m.
Bartlett vs. St. Edward, 10:30 a.m.
Marian Central Catholic vs. Hope Academy, noon
Huntley vs. Zion-Benton, 1:30 p.m.
St. Charles North vs. Barrington, 3 p.m.
Mundelein vs. Tilden, 4:30 p.m.
Crystal Lake South vs. Prairie Ridge, 6 p.m.
Jacobs vs. Elk Grove, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 21
Hope Academy vs. Huntley, 9 a.m.
Zion-Benton vs. Marian Central Catholic, 10:30 a.m.
St. Charles North vs. Crystal Lake South, noon
Prairie Ridge vs. Barrington, 1:30 p.m.
Crystal Lake Central vs. St. Edward, 3 p.m.
Tilden vs. Elk Grove, 4:30 p.m.
Bartlett vs. Cary-Grove, 6 p.m.
Jacobs vs. Mundelein, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 22
G25) Pools 3 and 4 fourth, 9 a.m.
G26) Pools 1 and 2 fourth, 10:30 a.m.
G27) Pools 3 and 4 third, 12:00 p.m.
G28) Pools 1 and 2 third, 1:30 p.m.
G29) Pools 3 and 4 second, 3 p.m.
G30) Pools 1 and 2 second, 4:30 p.m.
G31) Pools 3 and 4 first, 6 p.m. (semifinal)
G32) Pools 1 and 2 first, 7:30 p.m. (semifinal)
Thursday, Dec. 23
Losers 25 and 26, 9 a.m.
Losers 27 and 28, 10:30 a.m.
Losers 29 and 30, noon
Winners 25 and 26, 1:30 p.m. (Consolation C title)
Winners 27 and 28, 3 p.m. (Consolatoin B title)
Winners 29 and 30, 4:30 p.m. (Consolation A title)
Losers 31 and 32, 6 p.m. (third place)
Winners 31 and 32, 7:30 p.m. (title)