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Holiday Hoopla ready to be unwrapped

Senior guard Zach Stroud and the Princeton Tigers will face the host Plano Reapers at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in the 50th annual Plano Christmas Classic.
Senior guard Zach Stroud and the Princeton Tigers will face the host Plano Reapers at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in the 50th annual Plano Christmas Classic.

A new round of Holiday Hoopla tips off at three sites Saturday with more tournaments to follow Wednesday. Here’s a rundown of the basketball tournaments at a gym near you.

Boys’ tournaments

• At Plano: The Plano Christmas Classic marks its 50th anniversary and with recent additions, now is one of the biggest holiday events around. The tournament expanded to 24 teams at the varsity level in 2011 with 56 games spread over a week period in five days.

Defending champion Belvidere (6-2) landed the top seed, and is the clear-cut favorite returning four starters with two all-tournament picks from the 2011 title team which defeated Yorkville 61-51. Coach Aaron Pearson said the Bucs were the team nobody knew as the 5 seed last year and newcomer, but knows that won’t be the case this time around.

“We know we have to come out and compete at a very high level each night if we want to have a chance at competing for the title,” Pearson, whose Bucs are 3-1 in the Northern Illinois Conference.

No. 2 seed Seneca (10-0) stands 3-0 against teams at Plano with wins over Hinckley Big Rock (58-50), Wilmington (39-34) and Princeton (39-32). The Irish, who last won the Plano tournament in 2009, beat Lansing Illiana Christian 76-64 to claim in its own Thanksgiving Tournament.

The Mendota Trojans (9-2), fresh off the Colmone Classic championship, bring in the No. 4 seed behind Yorkville (7-2, 2-1 NIB 10). Remaining top eight seeds, which received first-round byes, are No. 5 HBR, No. 6 Lisle, No. 7 Genoa-Kingston and No. 8 Indian Creek.

Princeton (3-9) will square off against the host Reapers (5-4) at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, their winner feeding into Seneca at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

“It’s a very good tournament, well run and great competition. I hope we can win a couple of games and get back on track,” PHS coach Jesse Brandt said.

The Plano madness begins Saturday, including a 16-team JV tournament.

At Marseilles: Another site which continues to grow is Marseilles, where six newcomers have expanded the field to 16 teams, including St. Bede, Putnam County and LaMoille/Ohio.

Newcomer Kewanee (7-2, 4-0 Three Rivers) is seeded first and will try to become the first top seed to win the championship since the tournament was established in 2009. St. Bede was the most recent No. 1 to fall, losing to Putnam County 61-49 in last year’s title game.

St. Bede (8-3) drew the 2 seed this year, drawing an opening day contest vs. LaMoille/Ohio (1-8) at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Bruins finished third at Hall’s Colmone Classic last week before handing Wethersfield (8-1) its first loss of the season 84-83 Tuesday at the Academy.

St. Bede coach Mike Kilmartin said there are some scary teams that aren’t seeded like Ottawa Marquette, which has played several games without one of their top players, Curtiss Johnson, who has returned.

“It would be like us missing (Brad) Groleau, or (Damin) Smith or (Sam) Lucas,” Kilmartin said, whose team fell to Putnam County 61-59 in last year’s title game.

Putnam County (7-5, the fifth seed, will play Hartsburg-Emden at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

At Princeville: The Henry Mallards drew the No. 1 seed for the 85th annual Princeville Holiday Tournament. Henry (10-1, 2-0 TCC) will square off against No. 7 Princeville at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The DePue Little Giants (2-2) landed the sixth seed and a 3:30 p.m. date Wednesday vs. No. 3 Galva. Brimfield is the second seed and Elmwood the fourth.

The finals are slated for Friday.

At Erie: Bureau Valley coach Jason Marquis anticipates a strong Warkins Memorial Classic field headed by Wethersfield (8-1), Erie (9-3) and Knoxville. The Storm (8-6) have been paired in Pool B with Knoxville, Wethersfield, Riverdale (6-4) and West Carroll (4-7).

The Storm tip off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Wethersfield with Thursday dates with Knoxville at 3 p.m. and with West Carroll at 7:30 p.m. and a Friday contest vs. Riverdale at 4:30 p.m.

Girls’ tournaments

At St. Bede: Mendota and Kewanee (8-6, 4-3 TRAC) bring in the top two seeds, heading up the Green and White pools, respectively, for this year’s Lady Bruins Christmas Classic at the Academy. The host Lady Bruins stand 5-10 as the third seed, but shouldn’t be taken lightly, Princeton coach Kevin Hieronymus said.

“Any time you have Tom McGunnigal and his Lady Bruins in the field in their tournament, and they’re seeded third seed, you know it’s going to be highly contested,” Hieronymus said. “They may be a sleeper, but they shouldn’t be. They’ve had a lot of early injuries and Gunny will have them ready to go.”

McGunnigal sees a wide open field and excited to bring it back to the Academy.

“When we seeded the tournament out, a lot of the team’s records were at or sub-.500 with the exception of Mendota. So with teams’ reputations coming in, you just know some good basketball is coming from all of the schools,” McGunnigal aid. Some teams have played tougher competition in the early part of the season so strictly relying on records it makes the field somewhat deceiving and I believe will produce some even match-ups and potentially very good games, especially when the final night comes around and we are playing the crossovers and going for the hardware.

“I am excited for it to get started just because the tourney has historically brought out some great competition and we enjoy hosting it.  I am proud of our facilities and the people who work inside the tournament to make it a great event.”

Fieldcrest (6-4) is the No. 4 seed, playing out of the Green Pool with defending champion Eureka (4-6), Princeton (3-9) and Henry-Senachwine (2-6). The White Pool includes Seneca (7-5), IVC (3-7) and LaMoille/Ohio (0-12).

Eureka beat St. Bede 57-51 for last year’s crown.

At Prophetstown: Three Rivers Conference rivals Prophetstown (14-1) and Riverdale (10-2) are on a collision course for the championship game on Dec. 29. the Lady Prophets head up the Orange Pool, which includes Mike Struna’s Hall Lady Devils (3-10), Hiawatha and Hinckley-Big Rock (6-7). The Black Pool consists of Orion, West Carroll, Proviso East and the host Lady Prophets.

The tournament does not tip off until Thursday with the Lady Devils playing twice on opening day — 10:30 a.m. vs. Hiawatha and 4:30 p.m. vs. HBR.

At Princeville: Putnam County (12-2) opens round-robin play at 10 a.m. Wednesday vs. Elmwood with games vs. Princeville at 10 a.m., Thursday and Roanoke-Benson at 10 a.m. Friday. This is the second year for the girls’ event to accompany the long-running boys’ tournament.

At Erie: The girls take the floor first for the Warkins Memorial Cardinal Classic at Erie on Saturday with Bureau Valley (1-11) facing Wethersfield (10-3) at 1:30 p.m. The Storm will return to action at 3 p.m. Wednesday vs. Monmouth-Roseville. Other teams in Pool A are, Stockton, Fulton and Mercer County.

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