Pontiac Holiday Tournament preview

Breaking down the favorite, top contenders and top storylines in Pontiac.

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Oak Park’s Sam Lewis (11) controls the ball as Lake Forest’s Sam Gibson (3) defends,

Oak Park’s Sam Lewis (11) controls the ball as Lake Forest’s Sam Gibson (3) defends,

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Pontiac Holiday Tournament

The favorites: The seeds say Curie is the team to beat, but there are plenty of others who would give the nod to second-seeded Simeon. We’ll go ahead and call them co-favorites. These two have dominated this tournament over the past decade.

Curie has a strong, reliable backcourt in senior Phoenix Bullock and sophomore Carlos Harris while getting terrific production from big man Chikasi Ofoma. Simeon brings balance with senior-dominated guards –– Jalen Griffin, Jaylen Drane and Avyion Morris offer a ton of experience –– and the ongoing emergence of junior big men Miles and Wesley Rubin.

The contenders: New Trier has size, experience, can shoot the basketball and when healthy offers quality depth. The Trevians, led by 6-8 Jackson Munro and shooter Jake Fiegen, are a legit contender. Bloom, the No. 4 seed, is dangerous with its speed and the big man presence of Emondrek Erkins-Ford.

Sleeper: No one ever sleeps on Benet, so the Redwings won’t be sneaking up on anyone. But this is clearly the best team in the field that’s not seeded among the top four teams. Benet can make a deep run with its balance and scoring options on the perimeter.

Oak Park will always be a threat with the talented tandem of senior Justin Mullins and junior Sam Lewis. Mullins has signed with Denver and Lewis is a bonafide Division I prospect with his size, length and athleticism. But the Huskies are 0-3 facing their three toughest opponents (Brother Rice, R-B and Lake Forest).

Tournament storyline: The brackets, which have Curie and Simeon seeded one and two, respectively, will again lead everyone to believe a final featuring the two Chicago Public League powers is inevitable; history has shown and proven that to be true. These two have dominated this tournament over the past decade winning every single Pontiac title since 2010.

While again deserving of the top two seeds, these are not juggernaut Curie and Simeon teams we are talking about. Now which one of these contenders and sleepers can beat them both?

Top five players to watch: Jackson Munro, New Trier; Justin Mullins and Sam Lewis, Oak Park; Miles Rubin, Simeon; Chikasi Ofoma, Curie.


Dec. 28, First round

Lockport vs. West Aurora, 9 a.m.

New Trier vs. Peoria Manual, 10:30 a.m.

Simeon vs. Plainfield North, 1

Warren vs. Oak Park, 2:30

Danville vs. St. Charles North, 4

Curie vs. Bloomington, 6

Benet vs. Pontiac, 7:30

Bloom vs. Joliet West, 9

Dec. 29, Quarterfinals

Dec. 20, Semifinals and Championship

Other tournaments around the state

Rich South Big Dipper, Dec. 27-30

Hillcrest has surpassed expectations so far and emerged as the team to beat. Thornton and do-it-all star Ty Rodgers will likely be there waiting for Hillcrest in the final. Hyde Park, led by guard Davontae Hall, is a sleeper. This is a tradition-rich tournament with a ton of history that’s lost a lot of its luster. But what’s still at stake are some south suburban bragging rights.

Plano Christmas Classic, Dec. 27-30

An interesting field for Class 1A power Yorkville Christian and Duke recruit Jaden Schutt to navigate. The top-seed, Peoria Notre Dame, has one of the state’s elite sophomore prospects in 6-8 Cooper Koch. Burlington Central has been banged up a bit in the early going but is a quality No. 3 seed.

Centralia Holiday Tournament, Dec. 28-30

Always-strong and talented Vashon out of St. Louis is the team to beat and marquee attraction in one of the more tradition-rich tournaments in the state.

A pair of Chicago area teams, Evanston and Carmel, could meet in a quality second-round quarterfinal game. The winner would likely face an unbeaten Centralia, led by junior star Koby Wilmoth, in the semifinals.

Chuck Dayton Holiday Classic at DeKalb, Dec. 27-30

This tournament is nearly a century old. A potential title game matchup featuring two DuPage Valley Conference teams could be in the offing. Naperville Central is the top seed and DeKalb is the No. 3 seed. Huntley and Geneva round out the top four seeds in the longest, consecutive running holiday tournament in the state.

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