The holiday tournaments provided a great window of opportunity for coaches, teams and fans alike. The highs, lows and all of the stars during this holiday tournament time.
Best holiday team: Stevenson
No surprise here as the No. 1 ranked team remained unbeaten heading into 2015. But it’s how it went about winning the state’s toughest holiday tournament that so was impressive, which was highlighted in this story earlier this week.
Best holiday conference: North Suburban Lake
The top three teams –– Stevenson, Lake Forest and Lake Zurich –– went a combined 13-0 while winning the Proviso West, York and Pekin tournaments, respectively. Plus, Zion-Benton went 4-1 at Jacobs –– the lone loss in overtime. Go ahead and puff out your chest a little, North Suburban Lake, after your top four teams went 17-1 in four quality tournaments.
Best holiday team no one talked about: Hales Franciscan
The combination of not being ranked in the preseason, not playing in a marquee event and not having a bonafide star or even a big-named player has left coach Gary London’s team in this category.
The Spartans are 13-1, dominated the McDipper with an average victory margin of 21 points a game, are clearly among the top 10 teams in the Chicago area and a serious state championship contender in Class 2A.
You have to love a team that had six different players score in double figures in four games at the McDipper, with a different player leading them in scoring in each win. Dominic Christian was named the tournament MVP, but it could have easily gone to either Johnny Fox or Joseph Larry. That’s the type of balance and unselfishness this Hales team features.
Biggest holiday surprise: Benet
A tournament like Pontiac, steeped in tradition and basketball appreciation, welcomed a new team and different look in coach Gene Heidkamp’s Redwings. And the trip was a huge success.
More importantly it was a team-building experience –– on and off the court –– that included an upset win over Curie and an improbable run to the title game. Although Benet fell to Simeon 46-26 in the championship, the Redwings showed they are a legit contender in the East Suburban Catholic.
Most interesting holiday move: Simeon’s new starting five
With all the big names, highly-ranked players and Division I talent on the Simeon roster, coach Robert Smith inserted the unknown into his starting lineup at Pontiac: Armon Benford.
The 5-11 senior started all four games for the Wolverines. And while he scored just eight points the entire tournament, Benford was inserted to provide a calm, steady influence on this star-studded team. As a sophomore he was the starting point guard for Simeon’s unbeaten sophomore city championship team. Last year he had a slow and late start coming back from a broken foot.
‘Tis the season … to forget: Chicago Public League
First, a tip of the cap to both Simeon and Morgan Park for winning championships at Pontiac and Carbondale, respectively. But there are some post-holiday blues across the Chicago Public League following a rough week of holiday tournament results.
Kenwood did reach the semifinals, but with Uplift the two went a combined 3-4 at Proviso West, with Kenwood’s final two losses to Stevenson and St. Rita coming by a combined 45 points. Both Curie and Bogan were stunned in the second round of their respective holiday tournaments. Vocational was beaten by Kankakee and, though it played well against rugged competition at the City of Palms in Florida, Young went 1-2 over the holidays.
Holiday tournament stars
▪Marcus LoVett, Morgan Park
In four wins the Carbondale Tournament MVP averaged 26 points a game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3-to-1 while knocking down 12 of 26 from beyond the arc. Yes, “Bright Lights” is a special talent.
▪Rapolas Ivanauskas, Barrington
In helping lead the Broncos to the title game at Jacobs, the 6-8 junior was sensational in putting up over 25 points a game, including 37 in a semifinal win over Admiral Schofield and Zion-Benton and another 30 in a title game loss to Christian Negron and Larkin.
▪Chris Duff, Carmel
The junior guard broke the scoring record at the Hinkle Holiday Classic at Jacobs, previously set by former Mundelein star Ben Brust. Duff, who knocked down 14 three-pointers in five games, scored 139 points (27.8 ppg).
▪Jalen Brunson, Stevenson
When you lead your team to a championship and you’re MVP in the state’s best holiday tournament, you’re going to be on this list. Brunson led the tournament in scoring, averaging 23 points a game, while also adding 5.3 assists and 3.3 steals a game.
▪Micah Bradford, Bradley-Bourbonnais
If you didn’t already know the junior guard was the real deal, he reaffirmed it with a monster four-game holiday tournament run. In four wins, Bradford averaged 29.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.5 steals a game.
▪Aaron Jordan, Plainfield East
Although the Bengals fell in the Pekin title game to Lake Zurich, the Illinois recruit averaged 26.5 points and 6 rebounds a game while being named tournament MVP.
▪Evan Boudreaux, Lake Forest
All the 6-7 Dartmouth-bound behemoth did was break the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament scoring and rebounding records while leading the Scouts to a tournament championship. In five wins, Boudreaux averaged 29 points and 13.8 rebounds a game.
The under-appreciated all-tourney team
▪Colin Bonnet, Benet
It wasn’t even about the numbers with Bonnet, though even those were strong enough to earn the A.C. Williamson Award at Pontiac. It’s all that he brought to the table for the Redwings in helping them get to the championship game. The eye-opener was the flawless game he played in Benet’s upset win over Curie.
▪Johnny Fox, Hales Franciscan
Although teammate Dominic Christian was tournament MVP at the McDipper, the 6-6 Fox was a difference-maker as well. In the final three games of the tournament, Fox put up 16.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game while blocking nine shots.
▪Noah Karras, Lake Forest
From the quarterfinals on the sweet shooting 6-3 guard was terrific. In Lake Forest’s final three wins at York, Karras put up 16, 18 and 23 points in support of tournament MVP and teammate Evan Boudreaux, while shooting 12 of 22 from beyond the arc.
▪George Sargeant, Maine South
The 6-7 big man led the Hawks to wins over Uplift and Proviso East, while playing Stevenson tough in defeat. He’s productive, efficient and helps the Hawks in so many different areas. In three games at Proviso West he averaged 16.3 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists a game. He blocked five shots and even knocked down a couple of three-pointers.
▪Joe Mooney, Niles Notre Dame
In four games at the Hardwood Classic at Wheeling, where Notre Dame finished second, Mooney averaged 20.7 points a game and handed out 10 assists. The tournament MVP also shot 10 of 21 from the three-point line.
▪Matt Rafferty, Hinsdale Central
A regular on any “under-appreciated team” simply due to the constant and consistent production from the 6-7 senior. Rafferty averaged another double-double, putting up 21.5 points and 11.5 rebounds a game in helping the Red Devils to a 3-1 record at Proviso West.
▪Mike Travlos, Lake Zurich
The 6-3 guard scored 20-plus in four straight wins in leading the Bears to a tournament championship at Pekin.
Breakout performer: Justin Smith, Stevenson
Already among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top five prospects in the sophomore class, the 6-5 wing shined in a supporting role of star Jalen Brunson at Proviso West. He scored 15 points (three 3-pointers) in a semifinal win over Kenwood and followed it up with 16 in a win over St. Joseph in the final. Smith is destined to be a high-major prospect.
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