JOLIET – For the first time in recent memory, a holiday boys basketball tournament will not be played in the Joliet area.
Romeoville decided not to hold its annual tournament this year, so area teams will scatter to 11 Illinois sites for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
It’s one of the annual holiday traditions that area high school teams have participated in for years. They have the opportunity not only for great and different competition, but also a chance to bond as a team on the road.
Joliet Central and Plainfield South will travel to Bloomington for the State Farm Holiday Classic beginning Tuesday.
The Cougars will play Chicago’s North Lawndale in their 6 p.m. opener and the Steelmen will take on Normal Community at 9 p.m.
Both opening games will be played at Normal West. The Shirk Center, on the Illinois Wesleyan campus, also will play host to many of the tournament’s games.
Central coach Lawrence Thompson Jr. will be coaching at a different holiday tournament for the first time. The former Lockport mentor always attended the Pontiac Tournament.
“North Lawndale is the No. 1 seed,” Thompson said. “They’re ranked as one of the best seeds in the Chicago area. Rock Island is No. 2, and they’re getting votes in the state poll. Hononegah is No. 3 and its only loss is to Rockford Boylan, and you know how difficult it is to play there. Wheaton Warrenville South is No. 4, and they just beat Wheaton North, which is very good.
“We get Normal Community, the host team, first. They drilled us in the summer at the Morris Shootout. They’re big. They go about 6-foot-6. I hope we can get them to play too fast for their liking. It will be a great time being at the tournament. The kids will learn a lot from me about what to expect. It’s way different than Pontiac, where I went for all those years. We’ll play four games no matter, and that’s a good thing.”
This year Bolingbrook will play in the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic.
The Raiders, currently ranked sixth in the state, will open on Tuesday at 2 p.m. against Glenbrook North.
“The Hinsdale Central Holiday Tournament brings together some of the best teams in the state and certainly draws an elite group of coaches,” Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost said. “We want to challenge ourselves against the best and this tournament certainly gives us that opportunity.”
Joliet Catholic Academy and Plainfield Central will be attending the 51st annual East Aurora Christmas Tournament that begins Monday. This tournament has pool play for the first three games.
Things will not be easy for the Hilltoppers as they play Neuqua Valley, Oswego East and Chicago Christian in their pool.
“We will have our work cut out for us,” JCA coach Joe Gura said. “But we want to play good competition. Including our conference games, half or more of our schedule is against 4A teams.”
The Wildcats will open with Aurora Central, then play East Aurora and Argo in their pool.
Minooka and Providence Catholic will be at the 43rd Jack Tosh Holiday Classic, which is hosted by York in Elmhurst.
The Indians will open play with a 10 a.m. game on Monday against Nazareth Academy while the Celtics will play the host Dukes at 8 p.m.
The Rich South Big Dipper Tournament, which also begins on Monday, will have Romeoville taking on Chicago’s King at 10:30 a.m. and Lincoln-Way Central goes up against Chicago’s Marshall at 1:30 p.m.
Plainfield East will travel to the Pekin and kick off the holiday tournament on Tuesday with a 9:00 a.m. game against Moline.
At the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, which begins on Tuesday, Lincoln-Way West has the tournaments’ first game at 9:30 a.m. against Chicago’s Bogan.
Lincoln-Way East will take the long drive to Teutopolis for its Christmas Classic and will begin play on Tuesday with a 2:30 p.m. game against Oak Lawn.
The area’s small schools will also be in action.
Reed-Custer, Gardner-South Wilmington, Seneca and Dwight will all play in the Marseilles Holiday Tournament, with Wilmington attending the Donovan Holiday affair and Coal City at the Plano Holiday Classic.