Chicago-area basketball fans started to appreciate Danville during the Pontiac Holiday Tournament last year. The Vikings upset preseason No. 1 Curie in the second round.
It turns out star guard Kendle Moore and Danville have a definite knack for beating Sun-Times’ preseason No. 1 teams. The Vikings pulled it off again earlier this month, beating Orr at the Team Rose Shootout.
“We know it is important to take advantage of the opportunities against the [Chicago teams],” Moore said. “Teams from the south and central part of the state just don’t get much respect.”
Danville is the fourth seed at this year’s Pontiac Holiday Tournament, the 87th edition of the prestigious event.
Top-ranked Simeon and No. 3 Curie are the favorites to advance to the title game on Dec. 30, but the Vikings may have something to say about that.
Moore, a Drake recruit, is an absolute blur with the ball. He’s nearly unstoppable in transition.
“I’m small so I have to use that speed and quickness to my advantage,” Moore said. “I’m a gym rat. I’m always in the gym with [Danville coach Ted Houpt and his son, senior guard Sean Houpt].”
The Vikings are deep and athletic and have some nice size with 6-5 Daylen Davis Williams and 6-4 leaper Caleb Griffin. Tevin Smith, a 6-4 forward, is one of the state’s elite freshmen.
Danville (7-1) plays Plainfield North in the first round and then would face the Peoria Manual-Benet winner.
The Redwings (8-2) have become a regular fixture in the later rounds at Pontiac. Since joining the tournament in 2014 they’ve advance to at least the semifinals every year and they played in the title game in 2014 and 2016.
Benet is off to a solid start this season behind sophomore big Colin Crothers. Its success at the tournament this season will largely depend on the ball-handling and shooting of guards David Buh, Jacob Petrovic and Jake Ronneberg.
Simeon (7-2) will arrive at the tournament a bit more worn down than in years past. The Wolverines played in Ft. Myers, Fla. at the prestigious City of Palms Tournament. It’s possible that wear and tear could open up things for the other top contenders.
But the Wolverines, led by Iowa State recruit Talen Horton-Tucker, remain the favorites. Simeon has won the tournament 13 times in the past 21 seasons and five times in the last seven years.
Curie (7-1) is one of the state’s most battle-tested teams and the favorites to face Simeon in the title game. The Condors have already beaten Orr, Morgan Park and Farragut. Curie is deep, but junior guard Marquise Walker seems to be the key to the team. When he is focused the Condors play at a much higher level.