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Averaging a school-record 73.3 points per game, the Rolling Meadows girls basketball team has proved to be one of the toughest teams in the state this season.
Now the Mustangs (12-0) will compete in one of the toughest Christmas tournaments in the state.
The Montini Christmas Tournament includes a field of four undefeated teams, and a fifth got beat for the first time last week. All are generally regarded among the top 20 in the Chicago area.
"The tourney is definitely stacked," said Mustangs first-year coach Ryan Kirkorsky.
The tourney, which runs from Dec. 26-29, expanded to 16 teams this year.
Among the powerhouses are Maine West Tip-Off Classic champion Marian Catholic, Plainfield East, Romeoville, Fremd, Zion-Benton, Batavia, Bogan and the host Broncos.
Broncos coach and tourney director Jason Nichols wants the event to become the girls equal to the prestigious Proviso West boys event.
"I know his goal was to have the most competitive holiday tourney in Illinois, and if you look at the teams participating, it's pretty stacked like I said earlier," Kirkorsky said. "Montini and Marian Catholic are programs with track records and rated so highly because of what they've done in the past and this season. You have to beat really good teams to win the tournament."
One of those teams is Meadows, whose closest call this season was a 69-64 victory over Fremd in the Turkey Thriller Championship at Lake Zurich High School.
Meadows defeated Fremd by 1 point in overtime for the Mid-Suburban League championship last season.
The Mustangs open the Montini tourney against St. Joseph while coach Dave Yates' Vikings (11-2) start out against Proviso West. Yates is hoping sophomore standout Haley Gorecki could be ready to see some action after missing the last three weeks with an ankle injury.
Rolling Meadows is trying for its 13th straight win today at 7:30 p.m. against Prospect.
"The biggest thing is how much these kids just want to compete every day," Kirkorsky said. "They have goals for the season and they come ready to work toward them at practice every day.
"This group is so confident. They believe they are going to win every time they step on the court and I think it's a good thing to have that expectation against anyone you play."
The Mustangs will see some different competition in Lombard.
"There are a lot of teams in the tourney that play different styles," Kirkorsky said. "We're excited to see how we match with some of the top teams."
The Mustangs' style is pretty simple — get the rebound and go.
Juniors Jackie Kemph (20.1 points, 8.1 assists, 4.3 steals), Alexis Glasgow (17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds) and Jenny Vliet (11.0 points, 7.4 rebounds) lead the way while post players Ashley Montanez (7.9 points, 4.2 rebounds) and Morgan Keller (5.5 points, 4.4 rebounds) pick up the slack inside.
Allie Kemph, Jackie's twin, helps spark the defense for a team whose offense is averaging the most points of any Mid-Suburban League squad that observers can recall.
Two weeks ago, Meadows posted a 95-72 victory over Wheaton North, the No. 2 seed in its own tourney behind Glenbrook South.
"The most interesting thing is that in that game where we scored our most points, it was also the game in which we shared the ball the most," Kirkorsky said. "We keep emphasizing that to the kids."
Glasgow, Kemph and Vliet are all being recruited by Division I programs.
"Everyone definitely talks about how we have those three big scoring threats," Kirkorsky added. "But you can go up and down our roster and there are kids who can really make an impact on both ends of the floor."
The Mustangs are allowing an average of 44.3 points per game.
"The No. 1 thing is that we exert so much energy running the floor," Kirkorsky said. "Obviously that makes for more possessions in the game. But we also continue to stress that in order to get into transition, it starts with a defensive possession and rebound."
Dundee Crown Charger Classic: A couple of new faces join the field for the 30th edition of the Charger Classic.
One of them is Mid-Suburban West contender Barrington (9-4).
Central Suburban League South power Maine South also joins the 16-team lineup of what has been one of the top tournaments in Illinois girls basketball since it began in 1982.
Prospect (7-5), Maine West (4-8) and Buffalo Grove (3-7) are other local entries.
West coach Derril Kipp has won the title five times and he brings junior forward Brittany Collins, who recently went over 1,000 points for her career.
Nine-time champion and East Suburban Catholic Conference power Fenwick is once again the top seed.
The Friars, who scored a 99-97 overtime win over Marist two weeks ago, finished third in the 2011 Charger Classic, which was won by Bartlett.
Evanston, which started the season at 8-0, is the No. 2 seed.
Coincidentally, Buffalo Grove and Prospect have new coaches who are former athletes at Illinois State.
Bison coach Steve Koldoziej played football in Normal while Prospect coach Ashley (Sandstead) Graham starred in basketball.
Graham also played in the Charger Classic as an all-state guard for Buffalo Grove.
Warren Blue devil Classic: Palatine and Wheeling have become regulars in this eight-team event which starts out with three rounds of pool play.
The Pirates are off to a solid start, having 11 of their first 13 games under coach Leslie Schock. IUPUI-bound guard Nia Pappas directs the offense for the Pirates, who have thrived on defense.
Wheeling, which lost two starters with injuries earlier in the season, is always a threat under coach Julissa Hernandez, who guided the Wildcats to the supersectional last winter.
St. Viator Snowflake: The long-running Snowflake will give the host Lions a chance to add to their win total under first-year coach and former Buffalo Grove standout Christina Jost.
Junior guard Erin Fabbri leads the attack for the Lions (5-6).
Leyden has become a regular in the eight-team tourney which starts out with three rounds of pool play.
The Eagles are also led by a first-year coach, Drewann Pancratz, who played volleyball and basketball at Carthage College before being named the Daily Herald all-area honorary volleyball captain in 2008.
Mundelein tournament: Two Mid-Suburban West entries are the lone area teams in this 12-team tourney.
Hoffman Estates and Conant are both improving right along through the first six weeks of the season.
Coach Mike Nocella's Hoffman club (7-2) was third in this event last year and returns its top two scorers and rebounders — Old Dominion-bound Destinee Young and Becca Stoczynski.
They helped lead the Hawks to a 40-30 victory at Barrington on Wednesday which gave four teams in the Mid-Suburban West one loss apiece.
Conant's defense has risen to the occasion time after time for coach Dan Travers. The Cougars (3-8) kept things interesting when they played on the floor of defending MSL West champ Fremd, before falling 44-34 in their last game.
Wheaton North tournament: This 16-team event looks wide open.
Just three days ago, No. 7 seed Hersey (6-5) defeated No. 1 seed Glenbrook South 37-32 in Glenview as the Huskies raced out to a 21-3 lead and never looked back.
Glenbrook South (10-3) lost to Waubonsie Valley in last year's final.
No. 2 seed Wheaton North has played well behind hot-shooting Mandy Traversa. Willowbrook is No. 3 followed by Hinsdale Central which boasts high-scoring sophomore guard Gabrielle Rush.
Coach Mary Fendley's Huskies, a past champion of this tourney, always seem to rise to the occasion in Wheaton.
First-year Elk Grove coach Kathie Swanson has the No. 8 Grenadiers at 7-5 with one of those wins coming over Hersey (32-27) less than a week ago. Jacksonville State-bound guard Kelly Naughton helps steer the offense which received a season-high 26 points in a 67-53 loss at Fenwick Wednesday. The Grens led Fenwick (top-seeded at Dundee-Crown) at half 37-34 in that game.
"That's the best thing about our tournament — a lot of teams can win it," said Wheaton North coach David Eaton, whose club was in a memorable 95-72 loss at Rolling Meadows a few weeks ago. "I don't know if that's the case in a lot of tournaments. There are a lot of good quality teams here."
Alden-Hebron Girls Tournament: Christian Liberty is of to its best start and will face Harvest Christian, Woodstock Junior Varsity and Alden-Hebron in the four-team round-robin event.
Coach Steve Rowland's backcourt is led by sophomore Jess Moriarty, junior Meg Sullivan and junior Vivian Barclay while junior Shelbi Hernandez is a force inside for the Chargers, who have won eight of their ten games.
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