Charger Classic at Dundee-Crown loaded again
Five teams who are currently undefeated highlight the field for the 32nd Charger Classic Christmas girls basketball tournament at Dundee-Crown, which kicks off on Friday, Dec. 26 at 10 a.m.
Prospect, Hononegah, Stevenson, Burlington Central and New Trier have yet to lose this season. Defending champion New Trier and runner-up Prospect are on opposite ends of the bracket, while Burlington Central would meet New Trier in the quarterfinals if the Rockets get past Bartlett in the first round and New Trier defeats the host Chargers.
Burlington Central, which played at D-C for the first time last year and finished 2-2 in the tournament, losing in the fifth-place game to Maine South, is in the same position as it was a year ago -- undefeated but against competition that hasn't been able to amply test the junior-laden Rockets to see how far last year's Class 3A fourth place state team has progressed.
"Before the season started we thought we'd have some tests at our (Thanksgiving) tournament, we had Byron pegged as a test and we had (Rockford Christian) pegged," said BC coach Mark Smith.
None of those, with the exception of Byron for a half, has been able to give the 9-0 Rockets much of a challenge. Central has won its nine games by an average of just under 35 points per game, with Byron coming the closest in a 49-36 BC win.
The Rockets were able to win their first five games without the services of 6-foot junior Sam Pryor, who has averaged 15 points per game since returning from a knee injury.
"We're playing well, now we just have to step up to the (Class) 4A competition," said Smith, whose team is off until its Dec. 26 opener at D-C. "We played a really tough summer schedule and the biggest thing I see is the girls are a year older and much more mature in their mental approach to every game. That has built their confidence and they want to see these challenges."
Juniors Kayla Ross, Shelby Holt and Becca Gerke, along with senior Aly DeTamble and steady senior leader Alison Colby, continue to be the core of BC's success. Colby just went over 800 career points. Central has also played without junior guard Sam Cruz, who is close to returning from a broken hand.
In its first round game against Bartlett (6-4), which hosts East Aurora Thursday night, the Rockets will see a team that has won with defense this season but struggled at times on offense. The Hawks, whose balanced scoring has been led by junior Kaitlin Brohan, have averaged 44 points per game but only 37 in games they've lost.
While Bartlett has clearly played a better schedule than Burlington Central, longtime Hawks' coach Denise Sarna knows her team is up against a formidable foe.
"They're very talented," said Sarna of the Rockets. "But that's why we play in the tournament. It's a great tournament and it gives you a really good midseason gauge of where you're at."
The Charger Classic gets under way at 10 a.m. Dec. 26 with Prospect (8-0) taking on Naperville Central. Hononegah battles Maine South in the second game followed by Stevenson (9-0) meeting Barrington. The top half of the bracket closes out with Fenwick playing Evanston. Fenwick, a nine-time champion of the tournament, is back in the field after a one-year exit. The Friars, under legendary coach Dave Power, replace Mother McAuley as the only "new" team in this year's event.
The bottom half of the bracket kicks off with once-beaten Buffalo Grove taking on tournament staple Maine West and its own legendary coach, Derril Kipp. St. Charles North then meets Resurrection prior to the Central-Bartlett and New Trier vs. Dundee-Crown games.
The championship game is set for 8 p.m. on Dec. 30.
Around the tournament horn: Dundee-Crown isn't the only Christmas tournament, of course, and Fox Valley area teams are poised to get their midseason looks at several different venues.
•Montini: South Elgin and Huntley are again in the field at what many feel has become the best Christmas tournament in the state in terms of overall competition. The Montini tournament, which includes the top-ranked and defending Class 3A state champion host Broncos, also runs Dec. 26-27, 29-30. Huntley will play Batavia in the first round and South Elgin takes on Kenwood Academy of Chicago. Other top teams in the field include undefeated Benet, undefeated Geneva, Marian Catholic, Trinity and Neuqua Valley.
•Wheaton North: Elgin and Jacobs return to the Bill Neibch Falcon Classic at Wheaton North, which begins on Monday. The Maroons take on No 2 seed Hersey in the first round while Jacobs, which earned the No. 8 seed, plays Willowbrook. Glenbrook South is the No. 1 seed, Downers Grove North is No. 3 and Lyons Township No. 4.
•Northern Illinois Holiday Classic: This four-site tournament gets under way on Friday. Dundee-Crown will play its pool games at Richmond-Burton while Crystal Lake South will be at Woodstock.
•Lisle: One of the better tournaments around for Class 2-3A teams is the Lisle Holiday Cage Classic, which St. Edward and Hampshire will participate in. The Green Wave open on Dec. 26 against Reed-Custer while Hampshire takes on Illiana Christian in the first round. Antioch and Coal City are other top teams in the field.
•Mundelein: Streamwood drew defending Class 4A state runner-up Rolling Meadows in the first round of the Mundelein Holiday Tournament on Monday. Cary-Grove faces Lake Zurich. Libertyville and Vernon Hills should also be in championship contention at this one.
•Oswego East: Larkin makes the trek to Oswego Monday for an 8 a.m. opener against Proviso East.
•Westminster Christian, with junior Maddie Versluys on the verge of 1,000 career points, plays in the Guerin tournament beginning Dec. 22 and Harvest Christian is at Alden-Hebron beginning Dec. 27.
Coaching milestone: Bartlett coach Denise Sarna recently won her 300th career game at Bartlett when the Hawks beat Glenbard East on Dec. 6. Sarna, who was also the head coach at Streamwood for five years before becoming the only girls basketball coach Bartlett has had, is now 321-292 overall for her career.
McDonald's Shootout: Burlington Central will play in the 25th McDonald's Shootout at Willowbrook on Jan. 17. The Rockets, who lost to Fremd at Willowbrook last year, will get a tough assignment this season when they take on Divine Savior of Milwaukee, a team that came into the season as the No. 1 ranked team in Wisconsin and features 5-foot-9 Notre Dame recruit Arike Ogunbowale. The Holy Angels recently lost to Fremd in overtime 65-63 as Fremd's Haley Gorecki, a Duke signee, hit for 33 points.
For your viewing pleasure: The IHSA Archives project is serving up an early treat for high school basketball fans this holiday season. On Sunday evening the Illinois High School Association will release video recordings of 145 boys and girls basketball state championship games, covering tournaments from 1947 to 2007. The videos, available free to anyone using a computer, tablet, or smartphone, will be posted on the IHSA Archives channel on YouTube.
"We've been looking for an opportunity to make our old films and tapes available to the public," said IHSA Assistant Executive Director Scott Johnson, an Elgin High graduate. "It doesn't make much sense for us to save them if no one gets a chance to watch them."
Included in the collection are many memorable contests, including Carver's last-second win over Centralia in 1963, the great Thornridge team putting up 104 points in 1972, and the unbridled joy of the first girls championship game in 1977.
Games that Fox Valley area fans young and old should appreciate include the infamous 1955 Elgin-Rockford West game, which is the only boys state championship game ever played by a school in the Daily Herald's Fox Valley circulation area. Also available are the 1985 and 1988 St. Edward vs. Teutopolis girls championship games, as well as the 1996 Elgin-Stevenson game and the 2005 Bartlett-Peoria Richwoods matchup.
"There is something to see in every one of these videos," said Johnson. "You might need to set some time limits."
There are still a few holes in the list of championship games, but Johnson is hopeful some of them will be filled as word of the project spreads.
If the videos prove popular, many more could be posted. According to Johnson there are about 1,600 state final games and meets covering all IHSA sports still in the pipeline. "Digitizing our archives is a multiyear project", he said, "but it's well worth the effort to share and preserve the history of our tournaments."
On a personal level, Johnson would love to acquire a video of the 1973 state quarterfinal game between West Aurora and Elgin, a matchup many still believe was the true state championship game that season.
The IHSA Archives channel on YouTube is at www.youtube.com/IHSAArchives. A comprehensive index of currently posted videos can be found on the IHSA website at www.ihsa.org/archives. More than 120 championship videos from other IHSA fall and winter sports have already been posted.
And oh, yes, the postseason: The IHSA released postseason assignments late last week and the major changes affect South Elgin and the three area Class 3A teams.
South Elgin, traditionally grouped with Elgin, Larkin, Dundee-Crown, Jacobs and Streamwood in a Class 4A regional that feeds into a western sectional, has been sent east this season and will be part of the 21-team Geneva sectional along with Bartlett.
In Class 3A, if Burlington Central is to make a return trip to state, the Rockets will have to start by getting through a very tough Sycamore regional, where the host Spartans, Hampshire and St. Edward are all having good seasons so far. Hampshire will host a sectional that is likely to include Rockford Lutheran and Aurora Central Catholic, which beat St. Edward last week. Then, the biggest change comes in the supersectional assignment. The past two years, the sectional winner has been sent east, meeting Vernon Hills and then Carmel in the Elite Eight game. But this year the IHSA has assigned the Hampshire sectional winner to the Lewis University supersectional, where it will face the LaSalle-Peru sectional champ. Top teams that could come out of L-P include Galesburg, Morton and Peoria Richwoods.
"When it first came out we thought we might see Montini early, but then we saw we got sent west," said BC coach Mark Smith. "Our regional is tough. Hampshire, St. Ed's and Sycamore are all very good. Rockford Lutheran and Galesburg are very good. But at the end of the day you gotta win the games no matter who's there."
And finally: The quote of the year to this point comes from St. Edward assistant coach Denny Butzow. While waiting for the Green Wave to play in Glenbard South's spacious field house Butzow looked around and said, "We could fit our whole school in here."