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Holiday highlights -- Brother Rice closes 2015 with Luther North title

  • Written by Jeff Vorva and Anthony Nasella

PAGE 1 BROTHER RICE SHEPSKI

File photo by Jeff Vorva

Brother Rice's Mike Shepski was the MVP at the Luther North Tournament.

The 2015 portion of the 2015-16 boys basketball season ended in odd fashion for many teams in the state.

Weather-related issues, power outages and some close games in holiday tournaments made the final week of 2015 exciting and area teams were a part of the fun. What will 2016 bring? If the end of 2015 is any indication, it won’t be boring. Here are highlights from the area – and around the state – from holiday tournaments:

We are the champions: Brother Rice won the 16-team Luther North Tournament with a 49-37 victory over Maine East on Dec. 30.

Mike Shepski was the tournament MVP but John Ryan and Josh Niego did the heavy lifting in the title game as both had 14 points. The Crusaders also beat Steinmetz, Robeson and Jones en route to the title game.

Marist won its own tournament Dec. 23 but went 1-2 in the 16-team Centralia Tournament. Oddly, the tournament did not host a seventh-place game so Marist and Alton finished in the seventh-eighth slots. None of the RedHawks made the All-Tournament team but Chamar Hawkins led the tournament in 3-point shooting with 60 percent.

It’s Déjà vu all over again: When Chicago Christian dropped its first game of the Romeoville Holiday Tournament to Lemont on Dec. 26, the Knights were able to rebound in its final three games – defeating Lincoln-Way East, Oak Forest and the Argo to capture the consolation championship.

Ironically, Chicago Christian (12-2) followed the same pattern at the Richards Thanksgiving tournament after dropping its opening game against Marist and then winning the next three in the consolation bracket.

Head coach Kevin Pittman is remaining hopeful that his Knights will be able to break that cycle in the critical win-or-go-home IHSA postseason in a few months.

 “We just don’t seem to fare well in that first game,” Pittman said. “We didn’t have our usual routine before the Lemont game and were pretty lifeless on both sides of the ball – so I’m looking forward to getting the kids back into a normal routine.”

Glass half full: Despite Richards going 1-3 at the Hinsdale Central Holiday Tournament, coach Jevon Mamon is optimistic that the quality of teams that his Bulldogs competed against will work in their favor in the state tournament.

Richards opened the tournament with a win over Hope Academy but dropped a 31-point loss to Stevenson and a 29-point setback against Rockford Auburn before finishing the tournament with a 16-point defeat to DePaul College Prep.

A bright spot for the Bulldogs (7-7) was the play of Jaylan Catledge, who named to the all-tournament team after averaging 19.8 points and 9.8 rebounds in the four game and registering three consecutive double-double performances. He poured in game-high 29 points against Stevenson.

“The quality of competition we played against is going to help us in conference and in the state tournament down the road, without question,” Mamon said. “We would have liked to have had more success, but those games definitely opened our eyes to what we need to work on and become better.”

We forgot our uniforms: Memphis’s Raleigh-Egypt competed in the Centralia Tournament but the players left their uniforms at home. They had to play in Centralia JV uniforms.

Close shaves: St. Laurence’s trip to the York Tournament featured four nailbiters but only one victory.

The Vikings dropped the opener, 53-52 to Downers Grove South, nipped Elk Grove 55-54, lost to Sandburg 54-51 and finished with a 58-54 loss to St. Ignatius.

Burn the film: Neither coach is probably going to want to watch the video from the first half of the Sandburg-St. Patrick game in the consolation semifinals of the York Tournament on Dec. 30.

Sandburg led 11-4 at halftime after shooting 4 for 17 from the floor while the Shamrocks shot 1 for 21. St. Pat recovered in the second half and pulled off the 34-31 win.

Stagg-ered: Stagg went into the York Tournament with plenty of steam after beating Joliet West and Joliet Central. The Chargers opened the York tourney with a win over Waubonsie but then had their seven-game win streak snapped when they dropped games to Naperville North and Lake Forest before recovering for a 59-47 win over Providence.

Meanwhile in Pontiac, where the tournament was delayed a couple of times because of power outages, one of the teams Stagg beat, Joliet West, made it to the final four after stunning Benet, 59-53, on Dec. 30.