Despite COVID, teams in NW suburbs had fruitful holiday tournament season
After a 2020 Christmas basketball season where teams were all given coal in their stockings, the presents were back in 2021 thanks to the return of holiday basketball tournaments.
Hoffman Estates won the Westmont/ICCP tournament. Barrington was second at the Hinkle Classic and Rolling Meadows was third at the prestigious Jack Tosh tournament.
However, COVID still dominated the discussion as four teams and a head coach were forced out. Hersey, Maine South, Leyden and St. Viator all sat their tournaments out due to COVID protocols, while Prospect head coach Brad Rathe was also sidelined. Teams also played short-handed due to COVID.
The Broncos (12-2) won their bracket and advanced to the final four of the Jim Hinkle Holiday Classic at Jacobs. Barrington beat Bartlett in the semifinals 61-41 before losing to Larkin 56-51 in the title game. Barrington, which went 4-1 in the tournament, was led by Will Grudzinski and Daniel Hong, who were both named to the all-tournament team.
The Bison (8-7) went 2-2 at the Hardwood Classic, losing in the consolation championship in double overtime to Hampshire. Adidas Davis was named to the all-tournament team and led the tournament with 13 3-pointers. "Our team played like our record was," Buffalo Grove coach Keith Peterson said. "We had some very good moments and some moments that we have a lot to learn from. We were a couple of plays away from having a very successful tournament. Our guys fought back from some big deficits but just needed a play or two more in a couple of games."
The Cougars (7-4) had one of the top moments in all of the holiday tournaments. Colin Francia drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer for an overtime win against St. Ignatius in the opening round of the Jack Tosh Tosh tournament. Conant, which came back from being down 13 in the game, went on to go 2-2 in the tournament. "We played four good teams," Conant coach Matt Walsh said. "It was a great experience that will certainly make us better. We are looking forward to getting better and finishing the season strong."
The Grenadiers continue to make progress. Elk Grove (4-12) went 2-2 at the Maine East tournament where Bronson Bartusch was named to the all-tournament team. "We played well on offense," Elk Grove coach Nick Oraham said. "Our guys got downhill, and we shared it well. We also shot it very well. Defensively, we got better as the tournament went on. We did a nice job of taking charges and we rebounded better than what we have been doing."
The Vikings (10-5) went 2-2 in the Wheeling tournament. They beat Maine West and Glenbard North and lost to Libertyville and then to Deerfield in a double-overtime thriller. Eli Schoffstall led Fremd with 48 points in the tournament.
The Hawks (9-3) continue to feast on holiday tournaments. After winning the Woodstock Thanksgiving tournament, Hoffman Estates followed by taking home the top prize at the Westmont/ICCP tournament. To get to the title game, Hoffman beat Taft 57-51. In the title game, Darien Irvin hit the winning basket with two seconds left on a great pass from Mike Vukovic to beat Evergreen Park 58-57. "We played high-level, selfless basketball on both ends of the floor with a balanced scoring attack throughout the week," Hoffman Estates coach Peter McBride said. "With 11 games scheduled this month due to COVID-related rescheduled games, we simply hope to stay mentally and physically healthy and engaged so that we are playing our best basketball in February."
The Blue Demons (4-11) went 1-2 at their own tournament. Brett Gomez had 14 points in Maine East's win over Kennedy. The Demons also had losses to Metea Valley and Elk Grove. "In order to keep the tournament going we split our squad to replace Elgin who had to unfortunately drop out," Maine East coach Dave Genis said. "So our performance wasn't truly characteristic of our potential."
The Warriors (3-9) lost to Fremd in the opener of the Wheeling Hardwood Classic 52-37. Maine West then followed with a consolation loss to Wheeling 53-48. Unfortunately, the Warriors' next two games of the tournament were canceled due to COVID protocols by their scheduled opponents.
The Mustangs (14-2) made a great run at the highly-touted Jack Tosh tournament and came home with a third-place plaque. Meadows opened the tournament with wins over St. Laurence and Lemont. They then beat a ranked Lake Forest team 54-49 before falling to eventual tournament champion, undefeated Glenbard West, 58-40. The Mustangs then rebounded in the third-place game, beating Bolingbrook 58-55. Cameron Christie and Orlando Thomas were both named to the all-tournament team.
The Pirates (11-5) opened the Jack Tosh tournament with a tough loss against a very scrappy Tinley Park team. Palatine then rallied to win two of its next three games, bowing out in the consolation semifinals. "We faced different styles of play, which is what you hope for when playing in a tournament," Palatine coach Eric Millstone said. "I thought we fared pretty well overall, but there are some things we need to clean up, much like a lot of teams."
The Knights (8-7) finished fourth at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic and had an interesting route to get to there. They advanced in the first round when Niles North dropped out due to COVID protocols. Prospect then played its last three games without head coach Brad Rathe, who also was home due to COVID protocols. Bobby Reibel stepped in and helped lead the Knights to a win and a final four finish. Owen Schneider was named to the all-tournament team.
The Saxons (10-6) went 2-2 at the Jack Tosh tournament. They opened with losses to St. Francis and Providence. Schaumburg rallied in the final two games, coming back with wins over Timothy Christian (64-29) and St. Laurence (54-35), a game in which DJ Wilson scored 30 points and had 8 rebounds while Nick Doroskin scored 14 points.
The Wildcats (6-8) went 2-2 at their own tournament to finish 11th. JJ Kaspar and Aima Igehn each had 17-point performances in separate games as Wheeling continued to improve. "Our expectations are to continue to grow as a unit," Wheeling coach Tom Antosz said. "Our goal is to take advantage of every day we have together in practice and in games in order to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season."