There were very few lumps of coal distributed to local boys basketball teams this holiday season. Most all of them made Santa's "nice" list and were rewarded accordingly. Following is a roundup of some of the top performances.
They came from Naperville:
Neuqua Valley (14-0) added greater credibility and local intrigue to an East Aurora tournament that had seemed to be slipping, or at least had little DuPage County flavor. The Wildcats swept the tournament 4-0 with a 67-55 championship win over a 10-win Pleasant Ridge Park team that last season went 26-7 playing in the largest of Kentucky's six classes.
The way Neuqua won was as impressive as the actual achievement. The Wildcats beat Aurora Central Catholic 66-46 with the player regarded as their best, point guard Jabari Sandifer, scoring only 6 points. Both Sandifer and center Pat Kenny earned all-tournament status, but everyone coach Todd Sutton used in all four games added something either offensively or as part of the stingiest defense at East Aurora.
Naperville Central (10-5) was unable to duplicate its 2011 title at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic. But in going 3-1 to gain third place the Redhawks' sole loss was a 47-40 decision to eventual champion Notre Dame, which sports a 13-2 record. Naperville Central center Nick Czarnowski repeated as a Wheeling all-tourney pick. Coach Pete Kramer's various scoring options make it tough to put one player above another, but Nicky Lopez also garnered another all-tourney pick, averaging 14 points a game.
Naperville North (11-5) lost its opener at York's Jack Tosh Holiday Classic and didn't lose again. The Huskies closed strong with wins over St. Ignatius and Lyons Twp., their only loss to third-place winner Riverside-Brookfield. Derek Westman made all-tourney, though Anthony Rehayem couldn't have been too far behind.
On the radar:
Metea Valley (9-6) went 3-1 at Hinsdale South. The Mustangs were the defending champions, but graduating four-fifths of its starting lineup has put Metea below radar the whole season. The Mustangs opened with a win over consolation champion Glenbrook South, lost the next game by 3 points to overall runner-up and No. 1 seed Lake Forest, and spanked Providence 73-33 in the game for fifth place.
The kings of York:
York went 5-0 to claim the title of its own Jack Tosh Classic, a 12-team tourney that is set to expand to 32 next season. Coach Vince Doran's Dukes beat Waubonsie Valley for the second time this season to earn a title berth, their first in 32 years. Once there, York (12-3) beat Conant at its own physical, low-scoring game, 30-29. York guard David Cohn opened the tourney with 25 points in a win over Kenwood, but his 9 against Conant were enough for the win -- and for Cohn to clinch tourney MVP honors.
Warriors head West:
Highlights have been sparse for Willowbrook these past several seasons. With a 49-46 victory over tournament host Glenbard West on Dec. 28, however, the Warriors (7-8) exceeded their win total for all of last season. Willowbrook graduate Chris Perkins' boys, who sent at least three players in double figures in each of their four games at Glenbard West and had Josh Joiner, Tiger Greene, Adam Hill, Nick Kilianek and Matt McNamara all with at least 10 points in a 74-61 win over West Chicago, lost to Leyden 67-53 in the championship game.
Back to back:
The ICHS/Westmont Christmas Tournament may become known simply as the Knights Invite after Immaculate Conception (12-3) won the jointly run tournament for the second time in its two-year history. The first three foes couldn't get closer than 15 points against Clark Brinkman, Demetrius Carr, Anthony Taylor, freshman Rhashaun Epting and the boys, albeit providing less than stellar competition. Carr then scored 17 points with 14 rebounds to lead IC to the title, beating St. Edward the second time this season.
Downers Grove North (9-6) had been led all season long by senior guard Nick Norton, younger brother of former Trojans shot-blocker Kameron Norton. Then, in the Addison Trail Pre-Christmas Tournament, along came sophomore guard Myles Farley. Though Deivis Skirgalia led Downers North in scoring in the tourney-opening win over Wheaton Warrenville South and Nick Norton had a 27-point game against Addison Trail in the round-robin, Farley averaged 13.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3 assists to claim MVP honors and pace the Trojans' 4-0 tourney record.
Benet (16-3) did not match the success of its 2010 Proviso West Holiday Tournament championship team, but Gene Heidkamp's Redwings finished fifth and given the right matchup could have done better than that. Five days later the Redwings opened their East Suburban Catholic Conference schedule with a 42-41 victory at Notre Dame.
Opening against newcomer Urban Prep in the bulked-up, 32-team tourney, Benet won that and a second-round game against Proviso returnee Morton before falling in the quarterfinals to eventual runner-up Proviso East, 50-46. Neither Homewood-Flossmoor -- which Benet beat in overtime in that 2010 title game -- nor Bogan were able to top the Redwings. Sean O'Mara's 26 points against Bogan were his high for the tournament, and he earned first-team all-tournament honors. It's a pity there wasn't room among the 10 players accorded all-tourney for Pat McInerney, who scored 27 points against Morton and averaged 12.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists.