It’s possible this is the strongest field of teams in the 88 years of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
Simeon, which has won 11 of the last 16 tournaments and six of the last eight, did not earn a top four seed. Three undefeated teams, Bloom, Curie and Danville, grabbed the first three spots and Bloomington (9-2) is fourth.
It wouldn’t be shocking for the Wolverines to heat up and win the tournament again this season. Simeon looked totally capable of that in a win against Homewood-Flossmoor on Friday.
“Never count us out,” Wolverines senior Kejuan Clements said. “We play a national schedule. If other teams around here went and played the teams we played they would have the same record.”
Simeon is 3-6, but both local losses are to high quality opponents. The Wolverines lost at Bogan in overtime and at Curie.
“It’s been fun actually starting back at the bottom,” Clements said. “We’ve been underdogs lately so that is a little different.”
The Pontiac tournament is always special. The mix of atmosphere, hospitality and respect for the game makes it truly unique. Fans are not allowed to walk in and out of the gym during play, which focuses all attention on the game and almost makes it feel like you are watching a movie or a play.
This year’s production should be incredible. Here’s a look at the field.
Bloom (11-0): All the pieces are in place for the Blazing Trojans to have a tremendously successful two-year run. They are talented and deep. Winning a Pontiac title would be the first step towards announcing themselves as serious state title contenders. If Martice Mitchell, the 6-9 junior, plays to his full potential, look out.
Curie (10-0): Justin Harmon, DaJuan Gordon and Ramean Hinton are long athletes that shoot well. Damari Nixon can change a game if he’s hot from outside and Trevon Hamilton is rock steady running the show. The Condors have already beaten Morgan Park and Simeon.
Danville (11-0): Sean Houpt and sophomores Tevin Smith and Nathanael Hoskins have the Vikings off to a great start. They haven’t been challenged as much as the other favorites have this season, but proved an awful lot by beating Bloomington 81-78 earlier this month.
Bloomington (9-2): The Purple Raiders have Chris Payton, the most dynamic senior at the tournament. They knocked off St. Louis Chaminade at the Chicago Elite Classic and have beaten Hillcrest. Both losses, to Leo and Danville, were close.
Simeon (3-6): Clements and Antonio Reeves are dependable, high-level senior guards. The Wolverines aren’t quite as young as everyone thinks. Senior post Jeremiah Stamps is starting to become a factor as well. The sky is the limit for freshmen AJ Casey and Jaylen Drane.
New Trier (11-1): Bigs Spencer Boehm and Ciaran Brayboy are a load for any team to handle and the emergence of athletic Sam Silverstein on the perimeter has made the Trevians extremely difficult to stop. Senior guard Noah Osher is a factor as well.
Benet (11-1): The Redwings would be one of the top seeds at any other tournament. They have great size with 6-8 Colin Crothers, 6-5 Will Engels and 6-7 Kendrick Tchoua.
THE DARK HORSES
Oak Park (6-4): Things haven’t gone according to plan so far for the Huskies, but they are too talented and experienced to count out.
West Aurora (9-2): If guards Marquise Walker and Traevon Brown are playing well the Blackhawks could make a run.
Lockport (7-2): No one is talking about the Porters, who have some size and are off to their best start in years.