There were some disappointments in the way the Christmas holiday basketball tournaments turned out for Joliet area boys teams, but there also were plenty of positive accomplishments.
Leading the list is Lincoln-Way Central, which won the Maine East Tournament championship. The Knights may be headed for a big second half of the season.
Other top finishes included Bolingbrook, second at Hinsdale Central; Lincoln-Way East, second at Effingham/Teutopolis; Lemont, second at DeKalb; Joliet Central, third at the State Farm Classic in Bloomington; Joliet Catholic, third at East Aurora; Romeoville, fourth at the Big Dipper at Rich South; Plainfield North, consolation champion at Pontiac, and Plainfield East, consolation champ at Pekin. In addition, Minooka went 3-1 at York.
Let’s take a look at how all of that affects this week’s installment of the Herald-News area rankings.
1. Bolingbrook (10-2): While it was disappointing for the Raiders that they did not win the Hinsdale Central Tournament, they played most of the title game against St. Rita without lead guard Kaleb Thornton. As deep as the Bolingbrook is at guard, including Joseph Yesufu and Tyler Cochran, Thornton is not someone the Raiders can afford to be without. Depending on the seriousness of Thornton’s finger injury, they remain our top team and figure to come back strong as the second half of the season unfolds.
2. Joliet Central (11-2): The Steelmen were disappointed with their loss to North Lawndale in the State Farm Classic semifinals, but they recovered and scored a thrilling 64-57 triple-overtime victory over Wheaton Warrenville South for third place and move up to No. 2 in the rankings. WWS was the Steelmen’s title-game victim when they won the tournament a year ago. The Tigers had been unbeaten this season before losing to Normal Community in the semifinals.
3. Romeoville (12-3): Mike Salter usually comes off the bench for Romeoville but is among the best sixth men anywhere. He matters to the Spartans’ success, and his absence in the final two games at the Big Dipper – both losses – was evident. He sprained an ankle after playing only a few minutes in Romeoville’s second-round victory over Farragut. The Spartans, who slipped from No. 2 in the rankings, are deep at guard, but they need Salter back healthy as they make a run toward the Southwest Prairie championship.
4. Lincoln-Way East (10-3): The Griffins are a team that will be heard from in the second half of the season. Sam Shafer is a scorer, and East coach Rich Kolimas has a good complementary cast to put on the floor around Shafer.
5. Minooka (9-5): The Indians spanked Plainfield North before the holiday tournament and then had a nice tournament at York. Guard Brandon Hill can take over a game. You get the feeling the Indians, as usual, will be a factor in the Southwest Prairie race.
6. Plainfield North (7-6): The consolation championship at Pontiac, which the Tigers won thanks to victories over three outstanding programs – Peoria Manual, Bloom and Warren – indicates the positive path the Tigers are on. They believe they can play with anyone in the Southwest Prairie.
7. Lemont (9-5): The Indians continued along a good path with their second-place finish at DeKalb. With their quality size, they will be a handful for any opponent in the second half of the season.
8. Lincoln-Way Central (8-7): It will be interesting to watch the Knights the second half of the season. Andrew Hancock was the tournament MVP at Maine East, where coach Bob Curran’s team beat Julian, 50-49, for the title. Chris Robinson, Luke Handley and Matt Maloney are among others who chipped in offensively.
9. Plainfield East (8-6): The Bengals have some young talent, and their consolation title at Pekin indicates that talent is beginning to mesh into a solid unit. East could shake things up in the Southwest Prairie the rest of the way.
10. Joliet West (5-7): This spot came down to the Tigers and Lockport (5-6). Based on West having beaten Lockport in overtime in an 8 a.m. eye-opener at Pontiac, the Tigers get the nod.
Honorable mention: Obviously, Lockport, which was included in our first rankings two weeks ago, could return at any time. Providence (6-8) and Plainfield Central (5-8) have shown signs that they could reach the top 10 at some point. Joliet Catholic (4-13) may not win consistently in the rugged East Suburban Catholic, but coach Joe Gura’s Hilltoppers certainly are encouraged by their two straight victories and third-place finish at East Aurora.
Small schools: Seneca (10-5), Gardner-South Wilmington (9-6) and Coal City (8-7) continue to stand as the top three. But also keep an eye on Peotone (6-8) and Reed-Custer (6-9).