Many basketball fans will get an early start to their annual feast of Holiday basketball tournaments.
Area teams competing at Jacobs, Elgin, Glenbard West and Wheeling will begin tournament play before Christmas, and all area teams will be in action after the holiday.
Wheeling tips off its 36th annual Hardwood Classic on Monday with a full slate of games beginning at 9 a.m. It will culminate Saturday evening with the title game at 8:45 p.m.
St. Viator (9-1) has not won the tournament since 1996, a year that Lions coach Mike Howland was named to the all-tournament team.
The Lions are this year's top seed. They'll meet Hope Academy at 2 p.m. Monday.
St. Viator (9-1), which features future NCAA Division I players in Ore Arogundade, who is headed to Drake next year, and junior Roosevelt Smart, are averaging nearly 74 points over their last 5 contests and may have their eye on the tournament scoring record of 328 points set by Stevenson in 1991.
St. Viator, which has not been in the final game since 2000, most likely will still be without guard Mark Falotico, who is looking to come back from a broken foot suffered just before the start of the season. The Lions still have put together good chemistry and have received strong play from Pat McNamara, Robert Grant and 6-foot-6 Tom Martin.
The Lions may need to lean on Martin's size should they make the finals for the first time since 2000. Looming on the other side of the bracket is Fremd, which is unbeaten at 9-0. Fremd opens play on Monday against Alcott from the Chicago Public League at 3:45 p.m.
The Vikings are massive with 6-foot-6 Ben Carlson, 6-6 Matt Ochoa, 6-3 Xavier Williams and 6-5 Riley Glassmann, who is headed to Cornell next year. Only one team has scored more than 40 points against the Vikings this year, and their opponents are averaging 34 points in Fremd's last 5 games.
"Our kids have stayed focused," said Fremd coach Bob Widlowski, whose team lost to St.Viator 52-45 in last year's quarterfinals.
Prospect (6-4), which leads the MSL East, opens play at 10:30 a.m. Monday against Maine West (3-5).
Prospect is in the upper bracket with St. Viator. Led by guards Bobby Frasco and Kyle Beyak, Prospect is the only team to defeat the Lions this season, handing them a 61-58 loss at Thanksgiving. The two teams could meet again in the semifinals on Friday.
Host Wheeling (6-5) is entering their tournament with their best record in 5 years. The Wildcats broke a 3-game losing streak on Friday with Jeremy Stephani coming off a school-record 39-point performance. Wheeling will meet Vernon Hills on Monday at 7:15 .m.
Teams to watch in the tournament include Naperville Central, which has reached the semifinals in three of the last five years; Niles North, which finished second in 2010 and 2012 and has high-scoring Duante Stephens, who transferred from Notre Dame. Speaking about Notre Dame, the Dons, who are the defending tournament champs, were rewarded with playing in the opening game of the tournament against Glenbrook South.
• Buffalo Grove is the only area team in the Elgin tournament this year. The Bison (2-6), would are led by Andrew Apel, open the 39th annual tournament on Monday with a 9 a.m. game against Harlan from the Chicago Public League.
• Hoffman Estates and Leyden will be in action on Monday at the Glenbard West tournament. Hoffman Estates (4-5) will meet Willowbrook at 4:30 p.m. while Leyden (1-4) will meet Montini at 6:15 p.m.
• Barrington got the earliest start of any area team. The Broncos (4-7) fell 73-61 to Prairie Ridge on Saturday in the Hinkle Holiday Classic at Jacobs. Barrington will be back in action Monday.
• The Jack Tosh York tournament begins its play the day after Christmas, changing its format to 32 teams.
Palatine and Conant, which had been playing in the tournament for the past few years, will now be joined by Schaumburg, Elk Grove and Rolling Meadows.
Games will be held on two courts at York with okay beginning on Thursday and completing on New Years Eve. Each team in the tournament is guaranteed 4 games.
• Rolling Meadows(3-6) , which moved from the Elgin tournament, will meet Conant (6-3) on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.
"We like the new tournament and its format," Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich said. "But we are a little disappointed that we are matched up with Conant in the first round. We were hoping to play some teams from some other conferences."
Schaumburg (6-5), which has got good play from Josh Rahn and Johnnie Flynn, will need to continue that when the Saxons face off against Brother Rice at 10 a.m.
Elk Grove (6-3) opens its tournament play on Thursday against Timothy Christian. Elk Grove, which has lost its last two games, has been led by Scott Furlong and Anthony Bianchini.
Palatine (4-5) has been on a roll, with the Pirates winning their last two games. Led by Chris Macahon, Nolan Gavin and Matt Ulrich, Palatine, which is a veteran at the Tosh, will meet McHenry at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
• Hersey is the only area team that will not be close to home for the holidays. The Huskies (3-6) travel to Pekin on Thursday to play the host Dragons at 6:30 on Thursday.
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