Photo by Jeff Vorva
DeAnna Stewart of Evergreen Park was named MVP of the Agricultural Science School Tournament for her scoring and rebounding but on this play on Friday, she wasn’t afraid to hit the ground for a loose ball against Bremen.
It’s been 25 years since Marist’s boys basketball team won the Centralia Holiday Tournament.
It possibly never happened that the boys and girls basketball teams at Evergreen Park won holiday tournaments during the same season.
In a dizzying and historic 24-hour period on Thursday and Friday, the area crowned three champions. Evergreen Park’s boys took care of business with an 89-74 victory over Perspectives-Calumet on Thursday night to win the 16-team Immaculate Conception Catholic/Westmont Christmas Classic. On Friday afternoon, EP’s girls beat Bremen 38-24 to finish 5-0 in the six-team Chicago Agriculture Science Christmas Tournament.
Meanwhile, a few hundred miles south, Marist put the finishing touches on the wild end-of-the-week festivities with a 51-47 victory over Belleville West Friday night to win the 74th Centralia Tournament, but the game most Marist fans will be buzzing about was the Friday afternoon semifinal game in which the RedHawks (16-0) trailed by 12 heading into the fourth quarter but roared back for a 50-49 victory over Champaign Central. Justin Brown’s block of a Central shot at the buzzer preserved the victory seconds after Maurice Commander bagged a pair of free throws.
Junior Morgan Taylor was the 16-team tournament’s MVP and became the first Marist player to claim that award since Gene Nolan in 1991. Nolan is the team’s coach and has now won a Centralia title as a player and a coach. Brown was named to the all-tournament second team.
Marist is one of the few unbeaten teams in the Chicago area and the 2017 portion of its schedule will be challenging with games with Benet, Brother Rice and St. Patrick looming. But after winning this tournament, the RedHawks should be confident they can play with the big boys.
Evergreen Park’s boys and girls didn’t play in high-profile tournaments, but they strung together an impressive stretch of victories that left the boys at 10-4 and the girls at 13-4 to help give them confidence for the beefy part of their South Suburban Conference. Both teams also have eyes on desirable seeds in the Class 3A postseason.
Girls coach Bruce Scaduto, who also coached the boys, couldn’t recall in his 19 years the Mustangs winning boys and girls holiday tournament the same year. Athletic Director Jim Soldan said he wasn’t aware if it happened before that.
The boys survived a 64-61 semifinal victory over IC Catholic with Michael Drynan scoring 20 before scoring 47 points in the first half of the title game. Drynan and Jonathan McDonald each had 19 in that game, tournament MVP Tyler Weathersby added 17 and Kyree Hannah 12.
“Tyler did a fantastic job and probably played his best game as a Mustang in the championship game,” Flannigan said. “It was nice to finally win this tournament. We’ve come close a couple of times.
“We’re hoping this will help with our confidence during a tough stretch of games against Lemont, Teutopolis, Oak Forest, Hillcrest and Leo. We keep telling them that we have enough talent in the room to make a run. Hopefully now they are starting to believe it.’’
Scaduto’s squad is miles ahead of last year’s 12-15 team and has a heavy load of juniors on the team. Senior DeAnna Stewart was named MVP and junior Kacey Gardner was named to the all-tournament team.
The Mustangs had to play two games on Dec. 28, two more on Thursday and one on Friday and gave up an average of 28 points per game.
“We played hard and well against Tinley Park (Dec. 16) and with a week and a half off, I wasn’t sure how we would respond,” Scaduto said. “We came out in this tournament and DeAnna came ready to play. She scored 20 points a game in this tournament and she’s a great post presence. With DeAnna and Kacey, we have a good combination going right now.’’
Stewart is receiving interest from small schools for track as she is a shot putter for the Mustangs. She is hoping to also pick up some interest in basketball as well and having this MVP honor won’t hurt her resume.
Meanwhile, she is hoping for a big finish for her team and said the team accomplished what it needed to at the Agriculture School Tournament.
“We wanted to come out here and go home undefeated,” she said. “We needed to stay focused and control the tempo.’’