Holidays were very good to York
The holiday season was particularly joyous for York's boys basketball team.
The Dukes defended their home court and emerged from the rugged Jack Tosh Holiday Classic with five wins in six days and the program's fifth tournament championship, third since 2012.
Since an early-season loss to Stevenson, York (15-1, 4-0 West Suburban Silver) has rattled off 13 straight wins behind an ultra-experienced group led by four starters -- Erik Cohn, Nick Kosich, Nate Shockey and Sam Walsh -- each averaging at least 11 points a game.
That experience came in handy at the Tosh, especially in the 55-52 title-game victory over Downers Grove South. While the offense has been balanced, the defense has been superb.
York led the Tosh's 32-team field with an average of 43.6 points allowed and tied a tournament record by averaging 11.1 steals a game.
"We have been playing well from the get-go this season, but we really took a step forward with everyone playing in sync," said Dukes coach Vince Doran. "I thought we played very well on defense. The intensity really picked up."
Considering the atmosphere at the Tosh, it's no wonder the intensity picked up. Crowds were large and lively, even on New Year's Eve for the consolation final, the third-place game and the title game.
"We had our best crowds in seven years, especially the last few rounds," Doran said. "It was a great tournament, great turnout, great environment."
Continuing a stingy, season-long trend, Waubonsie Valley (13-2, 2-1 DuPage Valley Conference) held its first four opponents at the Hinkle Holiday Classic to no more than 38 points to reach the title game at Jacobs.
Cary-Grove's 20-point first quarter in the championship game initially set the Warriors on their heels. Coach Jason Mead enjoyed his players' resolve in the 55-50 loss.
"I was pleased with our fight in the second half of that championship game. We were down by 16 at one point and down by 12 at halftime and the guys just battled through it," he said.
"I think the guys learned that just because you're down doesn't mean you're out."
It was a team-wide defensive effort that led Waubonsie, who placed senior guard Eric Cannon and junior swingman Marcus Skeete on the all-tournament team.
The length of 6-foot-5 Caymen Woods had an effect, and on the other end of the court senior forward Nikhil Khanna reached double figures three times at Jacobs.
Spinning into 2019, Waubonsie earned a nice win Saturday at the Moline Shootout, 51-49 over Rock Island. Woods and senior guard Derrien Porter each scored in double figures.
Mead likes the makeup of this team.
"I think it's a fun group to be around," he said. "They're buying in. I've seen progression in the system, with buy-in and competitiveness."
Back in style:
When Wheaton Academy beat Neuqua Valley in its first game at East Aurora's Holiday Tournament, it was on to something.
"I think that gave our guys a lot of confidence for the rest of the tournament," said Warriors coach Steve Thonn.
Although it surprisingly stumbled in its third game against Marmion, Wheaton Academy (11-4, 4-1 Metro Suburban Red) followed the win over Neuqua by beating East Aurora. The Warriors topped Plainfield Central 53-38 in the title match, Wheaton Academy's first holiday tournament since playing at Glenbard West in 2015.
Wheaton Academy typically plays a game or two out of state during its Winterim break, but Thonn looked to shake things up.
"We didn't want to take that whole two weeks off without being in a tournament," he said.
Marcus Bult, a 6-4 junior guard, earned MVP honors at East Aurora with senior guard Jack Dykema a second-team pick. Bult averaged 18.8 points, and even in Wheaton Academy's 63-54 loss to Marmion the Warriors landed three double-figure scorers in Bult, junior forward Max Scharnowski and junior guard Tori Sonuga.
"We knew there were some good teams, some bigger schools that we would face, so we were excited to get back in it," Thonn said.
"I think the other good thing is you just get different styles. You go from a Neuqua to East Aurora pressing us all over the place and then Marmion just plays tough. Then we got another style against Plainfield Central, so I think it was good for our guys to adjust four days in a row and have a new style that we have to try to beat."
Lake Park's eight-game winning streak came to a disappointing end with Saturday's 35-34 DuKane Conference loss at Wheaton Warrenville South.
But let's focus on the streak that featured six wins over the holiday break.
"You get a little greedy wanting that seventh win, but we're real happy winning six games over break," said first-year Lancers coach Billy Pitcher. "It's been a good stretch for us."
Four wins came at the Glenbard West Holiday Classic, including a 44-42 victory over Glenbard South in the tournament title game. The Lancers (11-5, 2-3 DuKane Conference) also beat Addison Trail, Hoffman Estates and Glenbard West in pool play.
Lake Park was 3-4 before the streak as the group tried to jell. After a successful soccer season in the fall, seniors Tommy Zakic and Max Ellenbecker quickly worked their way into basketball shape and merged with the many juniors on the roster.
Leading scorers Luke Sgarbossa and Trevor Montiel are among four juniors in the starting lineup, a lineup that must be adjusted after Zakic suffered a hand injury in Saturday's loss.
The Lancers face a brutal stretch of upcoming schedule, taking on Geneva and St. Charles East in DKC action this weekend before heading into the WW South MLK tournament. Their depth will be tested with Zakic out.
"We're looking for who's going to step up," Pitcher said. "We'll need one or two of those guys on the bench to emerge."
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