Girls basketball holiday tournament preview

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Montini coach Jason Nichols grew up watching some of the most exciting holiday basketball around — the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. He wanted to bring that kind of excitement to Lombard.

“When I was a kid and we would go to watch Kevin Garnett and Ronnie Fields at Proviso West, I remembered how something wild, dramatic and exciting would happen every year at that tournament,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘We need this on the girls side.’ So here we are.”

You know you have a pretty good tournament field when the two teams met in a state championship game. Or when you have two more teams that reached the final four the previous year.

“My goal was to bring the best teams to western part of Chicago and have the most competitive tournament in the state for girls basketball,” Nichols said. “We accomplished that.

“It’s a credit to the coaches whose teams are in the event. Without them and their willingness to put themselves in position to be challenged, this would not happen.”

A few days ago, Fremd coach Dave Yates said a team could come out of the Montini tournament 2-2 and be “pretty darn happy.” He might have reset his goals a little higher after his fifth-seeded Vikings took down defending state champion Marian Catholic Saturday.

“It’s easily the best tournament in the state,” Yates said. “We’re excited to be in a tournament where you are going to get tested every game. This is a good stepping stone for us to get to where we want to be.”

The field also includes Trinity, Rolling Meadows, Neuqua Valley, Batavia, Huntley, Geneva, Zion-Benton and DeKalb.

“It’s even tougher this year than it was last year,” Rolling Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky said. “It’s definitely going to a challenge.”

Here is a look at some other tournaments in the area:

Hillcrest Holiday Classic

Homewood-Flossmoor is exited to spend the holidays in Arizona, but Hillcrest coach John Maniatis picked up perennial state power Bolingbrook and rookie coach Chris Smith to fill the void.

Fans who live in the south suburbs can watch their favorite team play two games on December 26. Second-round matchups could feature Sandburg and Hillcrest, Rich Central and Bolingbrook, Marist and Rich South, and Bloom and Joliet Catholic.

Dundee-Crown Charger Classic

The grandfather of girls holiday basketball tournaments enters its 31st year. New Trier and 6-3 sophomore Jeanne Boehm pulled down the No. 1 seed, but No. 2 seed Prospect has a tremendous talent in junior Taylor Will and Evanston at No. 3 boasts the Clayborn sisters and Dashae Shumate.

Barrington is the No. 4 seed, but the Fillies would have to get by a very good Mother McAuley team to reach the semifinals against New Trier. On the other side of the bracket, Stevenson and Taylor Buford could push Prospect if it gets past Maine South in its opener.

Bill Neibch Falcon Classic

Hersey was awarded the top seed at Wheaton North and is probably the most balanced offensive team in the field. But beware red-hot Willowbrook and Molly Krawczykowski.

HInsdale Central is a No. 6 seed and has dropped three of four after starting the season 6-0, but the Red Devils still have junior sharp-shooter Gabrielle Rush. One of the best first-round matchups has No. 5 Lyons facing St. Charles East.

DUNDEE-CROWN

Favorite: New Trier

No. 1 contender: Prospect

Darkhorse: Mother McAuley

Best player: New Trier’s Jeanne Boehm

Keep an eye on: Prospect’s Taylor Will

HILLCREST

Favorite: Joliet Catholic

No. 1 contender: Bolingbrook

Darkhorse: Marist

Best player: Joliet Catholic’s Jasmine Lumpkin

Keep an eye on: Bolingbrook’s Aysia Bugg

MONTINI

Favorite: Marian Catholic

No. 1 contender: Rolling Meadows

Darkhorse: Fremd

Best player: Fremd’s Haley Gorecki

Keep an eye on: Batavia’s Lisa Fruendt

WHEATON NORTH

Favorite: Hersey

No. 1 contender: Downers Grove North

Darkhorse: Willowbrook

Best player: Hinsdale Central’s Gabrielle Rush

Keep an eye on: Willowbrook’s Molly Krawczykowski

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