Written by Jeff Vorva
Life was good for Marist’s boys basketball team as well as Evergreen Park’s boys and girls as all three teams closed 2016 by winning holiday tournaments.
We featured them on a page 1 story, but there were plenty of other storylines going on as our other 17 teams battled around the area, state and nation playing game after game.
Here are a few thoughts and highlights:
Jack Tosh Tournament: Out of the four local teams that entered the 32-team tournament at York, I think St. Laurence benefitted the most. Even though they didn’t win a tournament such as Marist and Evergreen Park did, this showing gave the Vikes a huge shot in the arm.
The Vikings were 1-9 coming into this tournament and ended up in the final eight. They stunned Lyons Township, 48-46, in the first round as Brian Lyle hit a free throw in the closing seconds and Justin Wierzgac led with 20 points as coach Jim Maley beat his alma mater.
That win wasn’t a fluke as the Vikings knocked off Stagg in the second round, 53-49 in overtime Wierzgac added 25 points. Wierzgac made the all-tournament team.
They dropped a 75-45 decision to St. Patrick in the quarterfinals but recovered to nip Highland Park, 43-42 to finish 3-1 in the tourney and give them some steam for the 2017 portion of the schedule.
Brother Rice also made it to the final eight with wins over McHenry and Sandburg and fell to Conant, 72-63 in the quarterfinals before recovering to beat Providence Catholic, 66-38. Josh Niego made the all-tournament team.
Stagg finished 2-2 but ended things on a high note with a 52-36 win over De La Salle. Sandburg finished 1-3.
By the way, after all of the smoke cleared from the tournaments, the SouthWest Suburban Blue – which features Sandburg and Stagg -- came out with a 56-21 record for 2016. Joliet West and Joliet Central left the conference after last season and both team combined for a 25-2 mark heading into 2017. If the Joliet teams were still in that conference, it would be 81-23.
East Aurora Tournament: Chicago Christian came into the tournament averaging 97 points in its previous three games but there was none of that firepower to be found against the defenses in this tournament as the Knights averaged 59.7 points and finished 2-2 for a seventh-place finish in the eight-team tournament.
The Knights recovered to beat Timothy Christian, 68-42, Saturday at the United Center. Malik Parker scored 27 in the win.
Kankakee: Shepard finished fourth in the eight-team big-school division of the 16-team tournament. After beating Bradley-Bourbonnais and Kankakee, the Astros dropped decisions to Public League teams Lake View and Chicago Vocational. Sophomore Chris Harrison made the all-tournament team.
Hinsdale Central: Richards avoided being shut out when is nipped Urban Prep, 57-56 in the 15th-place game. Rico Griffin (11 points) scored with four seconds left to put the Bulldogs ahead by four points and Urban Prep’s Khaniah Perkins hit a 3-pointer with :01 left to close the gap to one.
Even though Urban Prep finished last in the tournament, it lost three games by a combined four points.
Effingham/Teutopolis: Oak Lawn finished 2-3 and finished in sixth place in the eight-team tournament with wins over Altamont and Mattoon.
Oswego East: Queen of Peace’s girls basketball team suffered its first loss of the season Thursday and it was a whopper.
In the semifinals of the 16-team Oswego East Tournament, the Pride took on one of the top Class 4A teams in the state in Edwardsville and immediately got down 24-4 and went on to lose, 60-23.
I came away with that one with mixed emotions. While the Pride is a great area team and probably won’t face another team that good, I was hoping the score would be a little tighter. I would have been happy with a 15-point loss. Queen of Peace is in Class 3A and will still have to play some pretty good competition so maybe a loss like this is a good wakeup call.
What I liked is the Pride was able to come back on Friday and beat Sycamore, 45-37 and enter the 2017 portion of the schedule with a 16-1 mark.
Coach George Shimko was pumped up to finish third in a tournament “of all 4A schools with enrollments of 2,500 or more.’’
Senior Kara Shimko was named to the all-tournament team.
KSA Holiday Classic: Mother McAuley finished 2-1 in the eight-team Red Bracket in Orlando, Florida.
The lone loss came to Ocean City (New Jersey) 51-45 on Friday as Grace Hynes scored 14 points.
Earlier in the tournament, the Mighty Macs beat Marshall County (Kentucky) 55-39 as Tara O’Malley knocked in four 3-pointers en route to a 21-point performance and Sunlake (Florida) 66-22 as O'Mallley popped in 17.
Montini Holiday Tournament: Marist was gunning for a championship, but the consolation championship wasn’t quite what the RedHawks had in mind.
But after dropping a first-round game to Proviso East, 62-59, the consolation title was the best the RedHawks could get so they won the next three games including Friday’s 63-58 title win. Julia Ruzevich led the way with 22 points.
Riverside-Brookfield: Oak Lawn finished sixth in the 16-team tournament while Shepard took 14th
The Spartans opened with a 59-56 win over Hope Academy with Madelyn McGrath pouring in 21 and also had wins over Niles North and De La Salle but had a second-round loss to Glenbard West and a fifth-place game loss to York.
Shepard’s lone win in the tournament was a 43-42 victory over Hope.
Hillcrest : Coming fresh off of winning the Oak Lawn Tournament, Sandburg finished fifth in the 16-team tournament with a 50-39 win over Lockport on Dec. 28. Stagg beat the hosts 46-42 for fifth place in the consolation bracket.
Lisle Holiday Cage Classic: Chicago Christian finished fifth in the tournament after beating Addison Trial, 33-28 on Friday. The Knights nipped Rosary 34-33, lost to Antioch 52-24 beat Reed Custer 51-36
Agriculture School Tournament: Richards finished 3-2 in the six-team round-robin tourney as the Bulldogs lost to tourney champ Evergreen Park and the second-place hosts.