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While the teenagers who play girls basketball around the Fox Valley may have been happy about a couple extra days off school, coaches surely were champing at the bit the last two days to get the season restarted.
But Mother Nature took care of that. And even though I was missing all the subzero cold while vacationing in Florida, I too am eager to get the second half of the season going, because the first half has provided enough excitement to lead us to believe the 2014 portion of the campaign is going to be an interesting one.
We'll assume for now that games will resume on Wednesday night as the Fox Valley Conference season gets back to business and the remainder of teams around the area get back to practice in preparation for a busy rest of the week and weekend.
So let's take a peek at the future while we also review what's already taken place this season.
Huntley and Burlington Central have emerged as the top teams in the Fox Valley but they certainly aren't the only squads who have reason for optimism in the final six weeks of the regular season.
Huntley takes a 13-3 record into Wednesday's FVC Valley matchup at McHenry and the Red Raiders have taken the lead in the Valley race at 3-0. But while coach Steve Raethz's crew may have established itself as the team to beat in the conference, last year's Class 4A Final Four qualifier has struggled to compete in its games against elite teams, losing big to Whitney Young, Marian Catholic and Fremd. There's only one more nonconference test on the schedule -- against Wheeling on Feb. 3 -- but division challenges loom against Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake South (twice) and Prairie Ridge as the Raiders seek to unseat four-time defending Valley champ Cary-Grove.
Meanwhile, Burlington Central (12-2) has already begun the 2014 portion of its schedule with an easy Big Northern East win over Richmond, and if anyone beats the Rockets in conference play this season it would be considered a major upset. The toughest BN-E test would appear to be Jan. 17 against Rockford Christian at home, a team BC beat 41-35 in Rockford.
A 2-2 showing in its first encounter with the tough competition at the Dundee-Crown Charger Classic showed the Rockets' mettle and should give coach Mark Smith's team reason for optimism as the season continues.
Central does have some quality nonconference challenges coming up, including Saturday when Kaneland visits Rocket Hill for Pack the Place Night, as well as Jan. 14 at South Elgin and Jan. 18 against Fremd in the McDonald's Shootout at Willowbrook. If they stay healthy, the Rockets have to be looked at as a contender for a trip to the Class 3A Final Four at Redbird Arena late next month.
Streamwood, Bartlett, Cary-Grove, South Elgin, St. Edward and Westminster Christian each can focus on the next several weeks with reason for hope as well.
Streamwood has bounced back from an 0-4 start to the season to go 6-3 since, winning the consolation title at the Mundelein Christmas tournament. The Sabres got a boost with the return of senior Hannah McGlone from illness and coach George Rosner's group hopes to be a factor in the Upstate Eight River race as the next few weeks unfold.
Bartlett (9-7) bounced back from an 0-2 start at the Dundee-Crown tournament to beat Buffalo Grove and Resurrection in its last two games there and the Hawks stand at 4-0 in the UEC Valley heading into Thursday's game at Neuqua Valley, also undefeated in the division.
The Hawks and Sabres play their annual rivalry game against each other on Jan. 14 at Streamwood.
Cary-Grove (11-6) will have to win out in the FVC Valley to earn its fifth straight division title but with scoring machine Katie Barker leading the way, that's not an impossible task. The Trojans, who lost to Streamwood in the consolation title game at Mundelein, have a stiff nonconference test looming at 14-1 Hersey, the Wheaton North Christmas champ, on Jan. 25.
South Elgin (9-6) has had its ups and downs but a strong 2-2 showing at the Montini tournament proved the Storm has the ability to beat anyone on any night. South Elgin is 3-1 in the UEC Valley and could still be a factor in the division race. With two league games against Neuqua Valley remaining and one against Bartlett, don't count coach Tim Prendergast's team out. South Elgin also has tough nonconference tests coming up with St. Edward on Thursday, Burlington Central Jan. 14 and Barrington Feb. 5.
Speaking of St. Edward, the Green Wave have performed admirably in the face of adversity after losing junior center CeCe Rapp, possibly for the rest of the season, to a car accident injury. Coach Michelle Dawson's crew, now 10-5 overall, finished second at the Lisle tournament, playing undefeated Coal City tough in the championship game before falling 52-44.
And, finally, Westminster Christian is having another stellar season at 13-1. The Warriors, who jumped up to Class 2A this season after reaching a sectional final in Class 1A last year, will face a tough challenge Saturday when they take on Cuba, one of the top teams in Wisconsin, at Loras College. Westminster is on track to win the Northeastern Athletic Conference title and with a seasoned group of veterans they could make postseason noise again.
Elgin City Classic: The second annual Elgin City Classic kicks off Thursday night at Harvest Christian with Elgin facing Elgin Academy and Larkin taking on Harvest. Westminster Christian also competes in the tournament and won it last season. The action will shift to Elgin Academy on Friday, when Elgin and Larkin tangle in the 5 p.m. game. Larkin hosts two games Jan. 14, Elgin hosts a doubleheader Jan. 17, Westminster hosts Harvest on Jan. 18 and the tournament concludes with Larkin playing at Elgin Academy on Jan. 20.
Alumni Night: Bartlett will host a Hawks girls basketball alumni night Saturday when it takes on Metea Valley at 6 p.m.
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