Glenbard West taking the lead to Grow the Game
Along with a handful of other Chicago-area girls basketball coaches, Glenbard West's Kristi Faulkner saw a need for something different in her sport.
The result is the first Grow the Game tournament and shootout to be held Jan. 2-4 at Glenbard West. It will feature only teams coached by women, and almost all the referees will be women.
"I haven't seen or heard of other tournaments quite like this," Faulkner said. "We feel like it's a really important cause."
It came about beginning almost a year ago, when Faulkner met with a few other women coaches.
"We wanted to do something for female coaches, kind of female empowerment," Faulkner said. "So we met about it and it kind of evolved into trying to get a tournament together and we couldn't be more excited about the teams that are in it and what it's going to look like and just the support we've gotten from the community and really throughout the state."
The tournament has attracted some hall of fame coaches and some of the top teams in the state. Faulkner especially likes the message the tournament sends to her Hilltoppers.
"We've talked to them about the message that we're trying to convey and how we think we have such great women and what sports can do for women in terms of their confidence and setting them up for success in their future," Faulkner said. "And for them to be surrounded by other female leaders and great athletes, I think that we're celebrating each other, collaborating, we're showing that women can lead and just appreciating the equality that all women deserve."
Here is a look at some of the top girls basketball tournaments in the area:
Grow the Game Tournament/Shootout at Glenbard West
Teams: Geneva, Glenbard West, Hersey, Lane Tech, Marshall, Marist, Mother McAuley, New Trier, Norcross (Georgia), St. Ignatius, Stevenson, Trinity, Whitney Young, Zion-Benton.
Montini Christmas Tournament
Dec. 26-28, Dec. 30
Teams: Batavia, Benet, Bolingbrook, Evanston, Fremd, Geneva, Hersey, Huntley, Lake Forest, Lake Zurich, Loyola, Lyons Twp., Montini, Nazareth, Oak Park-River Forest, York.
Outlook: This tournament is loaded with top teams. How deep is this bracket? Four of the top five teams in the Daily Herald Top 20 are here. York is unbeaten but gets only the No. 10 seed, opening against unbeaten Geneva, No. 7. Top-seeded Benet and unbeaten is ranked 14th in the nation by MaxPreps. The Redwings already own wins against Marist, Mother McAuley and Fremd. They have several future college players in the starting lineup and on the bench, led by Brooke Schramek (Wisconsin), Kendall Holmes (DePaul) and Kendall Moriarty (Nebraska). Evanston is the No. 2 seed and host Montini is No. 3. The Broncos are young but talented and still undefeated. Sydney Prochaska (SIU) provides experience. Fremd is the No. 4 seed with losses only to Benet and Indiana's top team.
Bill Neibch Holiday Classic at Wheaton North
Dec. 23, Dec. 26-28.
Teams: Bartlett, Downers Grove North, Elgin, Elk Grove, Glenbard North, Glenbard South, Glenbrook South, Hinsdale Central, Jacobs, Palatine, St. Charles East, Schaumburg, Waubonsie Valley, West Aurora, Wheaton North, Willowbrook
Outlook: Downers Grove North owns the No. 1 seed, but this tournament seems so balanced any of the seeded eight teams could win. The Trojans win with defense, but they can hit the 3-pointer and they have an inside presence with Alexis Parker. No. 2 West Aurora just suffered its first loss and is expected to be without leading scorer Riley Mont for the tourney due to injury. No. 3 Bartlett boasts two of the best players in the tournament, Mackenzie Hare and Lexie Sinclair. The host Falcons are the sixth seed, but they are very capable of getting hot and going all the way. No. 7 Glenbard South is again the only Class 3A school in an otherwise Class 4A field, but the Raiders placed second at state last spring.
Lisle Holiday Cage Classic
Dec. 26-28, Dec. 30.
Teams: Addison Trail, Antioch, Chicago Christian, Coal City, Illiana Christian, Latin, Lisle, Reed-Custer, Rosary, St. Edward, St. Francis, Timothy Christian, Walther Christian, Westmont Wheaton Academy.
Outlook: This is the best small-school tournament around, though it includes some bigger schools. The host Lions earned the No. 1 seed by going unbeaten through this point of the season. A first-round win will see them play either Wheaton Academy or Addison Trail. Latin is the second seed but will have to get past either Timothy Christian or St. Francis in Round 2. The winner of the Trojans and the Spartans game would be a good dark horse pick to win it all, with the Trojans owning the higher seed.
Oswego East Holiday Classic
Dec. 23, Dec. 26-28.
Teams: Aurora Central Catholic, Downers Grove South, East Aurora, Joliet Central, Lemont, Lockport, Metea Valley, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, Oswego, Oswego East, Plainfield Central, Plainfield North, Sycamore, West Chicago, Yorkville.
Outlook: Naperville North is playing very good basketball now. The Huskies are running more under first-year coach Erin Colletti, and the they seem to like it, especially junior all-stater Greta Kampschroeder. Downers Grove South has had a rough start, but a win vs. Proviso East offers hope for the rest of the season. Metea Valley also is adjusting to a new system and a new coach, Keith McIntosh. Claudia Gallegos leads Neuqua Valley under veteran coach Mike Williams.
Dundee-Crown Komaromy Classic
Dec. 26-28, Dec. 30.
Teams: Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Dundee-Crown, Fenwick, Hampshire, Lake Park, Maine South, Maine West, Naperville Central, New Trier, Prospect, Rockton Hononegah, St. Charles North, South Elgin, Stevenson, Trinity.
Outlook: Another tournament with an outstanding field. Five teams are in the Daily Herald Top 20. Lake Park joins the group, bringing all-stater Darrione Rogers (DePaul) along. The Lancers open with Hononegah, third place in Class 4A last March. Naperville Central is a solid team that relies on the 3-point shot to overcome its lack of size. The Redhawks start with Maine South. Maine West went undefeated to win the Class 4A championship a year ago, but Montini ended the Warriors' 44-game winning streak recently.