38th Annual Elgin Holiday Tournament
When: Dec. 26-29
Dec. 26 matchups: Larkin vs. Islamic Foundation, 9 a.m.; Buffalo Grove vs. Glenbard North, 10:30 a.m.; Harlan vs. Batavia, 12:15 p.m.; Hoffman Estates vs. Rockford East, 1:45 p.m.; Dundee-Crown vs. Chicago Michelle Clark Prep, 3:30 p.m.; Elgin vs. F.W. Parker, 5 p.m.; Rockford Guilford vs. Walther Lutheran, 6:45 p.m.; Centennial (NV) vs. Team Englewood, 8:15 p.m.
Last year: Elgin defeated La Lumiere (Ind.) for the title. Neuqua Valley defeated Batavia 66-54 for third place.
Outlook: Topping the excitement of last year's title game will be tough. In one of the more compelling contests of the 2011-12 regular season, the host Maroons upset nationally ranked La Lumiere (Ind.), which does not return this year. Elgin, 5-5 entering 2 games this weekend, is the defending tournament champion for the first time since 1999. But the Maroons are not among the top four seeds despite the consistent scoring feats of area leader Arie Williams (22.7 ppg). The tournament's top seeds are Larkin (10-2), Las Vegas Centennial (9-1), Dundee-Crown (6-1) and Rockford East (6-2). "It's wide open," Elgin coach Mike Sitter said. "Any of the top four and a couple of other teams beyond that have a chance."
Larkin enters on a 6-game winning streak, fresh off a double-overtime victory over Elgin last Wednesday and a 2-game sweep at a weekend shootout in Missouri. The Royals open the tournament against Islamic Foundation on Dec. 26 at 9 a.m. "We start the tournament at 9 a.m., but we hope to be playing later and later in the day in the winners bracket as the tournament goes on, hopefully ending with that last game on the last day," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "But that's getting ahead of ourselves. I just like the challenge of playing 4 games in a row. It'll test them physically, but more importantly it will test their mental ability to come right back against another good team. This tournament has great tradition and we're looking forward to it." Las Vegas Centennial makes its second Elgin appearance in three years. Coached by 1988 Elgin graduate Todd Allen, the Bulldogs have gone 56-10 over the last three seasons, led by Stanford-bound twin guards Marcus (6-4) and Malcolm (6-2) Allen. Centennial averages 78.6 ppg, topped by Marcus (30.9) and Malcolm (24.5). Senior-led Dundee-Crown has won 6 of 7 heading into tonight's road game at Johnsburg, led by the scoring trio of guards Brandon Rodriguez and JT Beasley and forward Dylan Kissack. "I think our team has a lot of ability, but we still have to continue striving to maximize the talent we have," D-C coach Lance Huber said. "We have to continue to work and get the most out of the ability we're blessed with." Rockford East reached the Class 3A Elite Eight last season before falling to eventual state champion Peoria. The E-Rabs jump to Class 4A this season, fortified by Rockford Christian Life transfer Isaiah Box, a 3A all-state selection last year.
Jacobs Holiday Tournament
When: Dec. 22, 26-29
The field: Pool I: Chicago Hope Academy, Jacobs, Lakes, Marian Central; Pool II: Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, South Elgin, Tilden; Pool III: Barrington, Bartlett, Prairie Ridge, Rockford Jefferson; Pool IV: Crystal Lake South, Elk Grove, Johnsburg, Zion-Benton
Last year: Huntley defeated Crystal Lake Central 55-49 for the title. Chicago Hope Academy defeated Elk Grove 74-72 for third place.
Outlook: If you like high school basketball of all levels, Jacobs is the place to be as the Algonquin school simultaneously hosts 16-team varsity, sophomore and freshmen tournaments. "Five dollars for 48 teams, 24 games a day. I mean, you can't beat that," said Jim Hinkle, Jacobs' coach and tournament pitch man since 1996. Among the 2012 tournament favorites are Zion-Benton (9-1), Bartlett (7-3), Lakes (9-2) and Crystal Lake Central (7-1). Defending champion Huntley opted to accept an invitation to the State Farm Classic in Bloomington. Zion-Benton has won 5 straight, Lakes has won 8 in a row, Crystal Lake Central hasn't lost since dropping its season opener to Carmel by 2 points, and Bartlett is led by UIC-bound senior guard Lance Whitaker, who averages nearly 19 ppg. "I think Zion-Benton is a great team and, in my eyes, is the favorite," Hinkle said, "but the favorite seldom wins this tournament.
Playing 5 games in such a short period of time means you've got to bring your A game. There's the potential for upsets, and I like to think we have that potential, too." Jacobs (3-5) has won 3 of 4 since an 0-3 start, led by seniors Will Schwerdtmann (10 ppg), Lake Ojo (8.8, 16 steals), Nick Ledinsky (8.4) and sophomore Chrishawn Orange (6.9). Bartlett, which first plays at Metea Valley tonight, has won 5 of 6. The Hawks aim for improvement during tournament pool play against Rockford Jefferson, Barrington and Prairie Ridge. "The great thing about Jacobs is we'll see different types of styles," Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. "We'll see zones, pressure and man to man against those three teams. I find that playing well at Jacobs benefits you later in the year." Cary-Grove (6-3) is coming off a 36-point loss to Lakes last weekend. The Trojans are in the same pool with first-time entrant South Elgin (2-9), which has dropped 8 straight. Crystal Lake South (2-5) has lost 3 straight entering its tournament opener against Johnsburg. The Gators are led by center Max Meitzler (6-4), senior guard Alex Bartusch (6-1), senior forward Eric Schiller and junior guard Austin Rogers. The Gators must face tournament favorite Zion-Benton in pool play.
34th Annual State Farm Holiday Classic
Where: Bloomington, Ill.
When: Dec. 26-30
Dec. 26 matchups (all first-round games at Normal West): Normal U-High vs. Grayslake Central, 9 a.m.; Champaign Centennial vs. Plainfield South, 10 a.m.; Huntley vs. North Lawndale, 11:30 a.m.; T.F. North vs. Normal Community, 1 p.m.; Rock Island vs. Springfield, 2:30 p.m.; North Chicago vs. Chillicothe IVC, 4:30 p.m.; Hononegah vs. Mahomet-Seymour, 6 p.m.; Peoria Notre Dame vs. Thornwood, 7:30 p.m.;
Last year: Normal Community defeated Springfield 61-52 for the large school boys title. Normal U-High defeated Glenbard East 62-54 for third place.
Outlook: Huntley takes its leave from the Fox Valley Conference-centric Jacobs Tournament to try its hand at one of nation's largest coed tournaments. The Red Raiders accepted the invitation thinking they'd have 6-foot-6 junior prospect Amanze Egekeze in the lineup, however, he is not expected back from knee surgery to address tendinitis until January. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders have dropped 3 of their last 4 games. Beyond the competition level, "The Classic" offers Huntley other opportunities for growth. "It gives us the chance to play teams from around the state and see different styles," Huntley coach Marty Manning said. "I hope after 4 games we'll know what kind of team we've got for the stretch run and the playoffs."
The Red Raiders open the tournament on Dec. 26 against North Lawndale (4-4), which is coming off a 5-point win over Westinghouse. "I hope we're shooting the ball a little better and handling the basketball a little better because we'll get a real test," Manning said. "They will press us and trap us. We'll be in for a long morning if we don't handle it well." Champaign Centennial (9-2) is on a 6-game winning streak entering tonight's game at Danville. Defending champion Normal stands 3-4 following a loss to Pekin last Saturday.
85th Annual DeKalb Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament
When: Dec. 20-22, 26-27
The field: CVS, DeKalb, Geneseo, Hampshire, Harlem, Marmion, Moline, Rochelle, Schurz, Sterling, Thornridge, Winnebago
Last year: Moline defeated Marmion 50-48 in the title game.
Outlook: Snow postponed Thursday's scheduled tournament tipoff a day. Hampshire (8-1) enters with an 8-game winning streak looking to do some damage. First up is Marmion (3-7) today at 5 p.m. "We have to be ready because they're a tough, physical team," Hampshire coach Bob Barnett said of the Cadets after Tuesday's win over Crystal Lake South. "They play real hard-nosed defense." The Whip-Purs hope to figure in the tournament title chase after tough pool play games against Chicago Vocational (6-1) and Geneseo (5-2). "We just have to keep it going because we have good momentum going into our Christmas tournament," Hampshire senior guard Tyler Crater said. "We haven't had success there the last few years, so it would be nice to make a run this year." Big Northern West power Winnebago (10-0) is a tournament favorite. Defending champion Moline (3-6) dropped games last weekend to Quincy and Bettendorf, Iowa. Most teams enter the Chuck Dayton Tournament with sub-.500 records, including Harlem (3-5), Rochelle (4-5), Schurz (5-6), Sterling (4-5), Thornridge (3-4) and host DeKalb (1-7).
35th Annual Wheeling Hardwood Classic
When: Dec. 26-29
Dec. 26 matchups: Fremd vs. Maine West, 9 a.m.; St. Viator vs. Libertyville, 10:30 a.m.; Loyola Academy vs. Wheeling, 12:15 p.m.; Niles North vs. Vernon Hills, 2 p.m.; Prospect vs. Deerfield, 3:45 p.m.; Naperville Central vs. Streamwood, 5:30 p.m.; Notre Dame vs. Alcott, 7:15 p.m.; Lake Park vs. Carmel, 8:45 p.m.
Last year: Naperville Central defeated Stevenson 48-46 for the title.
Outlook: Fremd (7-3), Niles Notre Dame (9-1), Prospect (7-2), St. Viator (7-1), Loyola Academy (6-3), Lake Park (7-4) and Naperville Central (5-3) could all contend for the title, while teams like Streamwood (3-7), Deerfield (4-5) Wheeling (3-8) give the field depth. Streamwood has beaten teams like Larkin (10-2) and Bartlett (7-3), but has lost 4 straight entering tonight's tuneup at Batavia. "I think there are only two or three teams under .500, so it's a pretty tough tournament," Streamwood coach Tim Jones said. "It's always been a great tournament with fair matchups and it's extremely well run." The Sabres open against Naperville Central, the defending tournament champion. "We played them last year so I know they're big, strong and they can shoot the ball," Jones said. "And they're pretty experienced with (6-foot-9 center Nick) Czarnowski and (6-5 guard Austin) Pauga coming back. We've got our work cut out for us, but I think we can compete and give them a good game."
50th Annual Plano Christmas Classic
When: Dec. 22, 26-29
Top seeds (in order, top eight receive first-round bye): Belvidere, Seneca, Yorkville, Mendota, Hinckley-Big Rock, Lisle, Genoa-Kingston, Indian Creek, Morris, Ottawa, Kaneland, Wilmington, Aurora Christian, Newark, Plano, Rockford Christian
Last year: Belvidere defeated Yorkville 61-51 for the title; Kaneland defeated Rockford Christian 45-41 for third place
Outlook: Belvidere (6-2) Seneca (9-0), Yorkville (6-2), Mendota (8-2) and Hinckley-Big Rock (7-2) are the most likely candidates to advance to the title game on Dec. 29 at 8:30 p.m., but Burlington Central is an intriguing dark horse. The Rockets have won 2 in a row after an 0-2 start that included 2 losses to Hampshire (8-1) and defeats against Rockford Lutheran (6-2) and Class 4A Elgin (5-5). Last year, Burlington Central went 3-2 to take 11th place at the 24-team tournament. The Rockets open play Saturday against No. 14 Morris (4-3). "We want to move ourselves into the winners bracket right away because that side gets a fifth game in the tournament," Central coach Brett Porto said. "We're looking to compete as best we can. I think we're starting to figure out who we are on defense, what our identity is. The kids are buying into rebounding and playing defense. Offensively, we're now passing up good shots for great shots."
Immaculate Conception/Westmont Christmas Tournament
When: Dec. 26-29
The field: Pool A: Evergreen Park, Immaculate Conception, Latin, Northside Prep; Pool B: Elmwood Park, Morgan Park Academy, St. Edward, Westmont
Last year: Immaculate Conception defeated Westmont 71-64 for the title. Evergreen Park defeated Elmwood Park 49-38 for third place.
Outlook: St. Edward (10-2) is a legitimate title contender, having already beaten defending champion IC in November, 51-39. The Green Wave attack with a balanced offense, led by 6-4 senior Adrian Ponce (11.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg), 6-4 sophomore Nick Duffy (10.9 ppg) and senior point guard Antonio Domel (8.5 ppg, 3.9 apg). St. Edward faces pool play games against Westmont (5-5), Morgan Park Academy (2-5) and Elmwood Park (2-6). The Wave finished sixth in the inaugural IC/Westmont Tournament last season.
If you go: All games in Pool A will be played at Immaculate Conception in Elmhurst. Pool B games will be played at Westmont, as will the championship round on Dec. 29.
63rd E.C. Nichols Tournament at Marengo
When: Dec. 22, 27-29
The field: Pool A: Harvard, Marengo, Woodstock, Woodstock North; Pool B: Antioch, Sycamore, Wauconda, Westminster Christian
Outlook: Class 1A Westminster Christian (4-6) gets its annual test against Class 3A and 2A competition, though the Warriors have already played a tough slate. They enter Saturday's doubleheader against Woodstock North (11 a.m.) and Marengo (8 p.m.) having lost to quality teams like St. Edward (10-2), Indian Creek (9-1), Mooseheart (6-4) and Chicagoland Jewish (7-1). The sledding has been rough due to some key absences. Center Sam Carani returned last weekend after missing 17 days with a concussion. Leading scorer Will Woodhouse has missed multiple games due to illness. He will likely return at some point during the tournament, Westminster Christian coach Bruce Firchau said. Another guard has been out three weeks with a hamstring injury. "Being a small school, we can't cover those problems with depth due to the enrollment we have," Firchau said. "But I think we're turning the corner on the injury bug and sickness issue. When you play the 3As, it's going to be more physical and they have more depth. Anytime you can beat one of those schools it's a feather in your cap."
When: Dec. 27-29
The field: Alden-Hebron, Christian Liberty Academy, Faith Lutheran, Harvest Christian Academy, Keith Country Day
Outlook: This Class 1A tournament pits Harvest Christian against like-sized foes in a round-robin format. The Lions will play doubleheaders on the 27th and 29th. They enter tournament play on a 2-game winning streak, which comes on the heels of a 2-point loss on Dec. 7 to Luther North, a game they led by 15 points. "We've been on an uptick since then and playing a lot better," first-year Harvest Christian Academy coach Jeff Boldog said. "The kids are understanding the offense more. The big things is consistency and playing good defense for four quarters. All these teams are pretty evenly matched. It'll come down to who executes the most and who plays the best defense."