There’s one Christmas gift that keeps on giving. It’s those delightful high school holiday tournaments lighting up gymnasiums throughout Southwestern Illinois. Santa’s sack is stuffed with them.
Local boys’ and girls’ teams will be traveling all over the place, starting Dec. 26 and concluding Dec. 30, for holiday hoops and wrestling.
From Centralia to Columbia to Collinsville to Carlinville to Jerseyville to Pinckneyville, you can find tourneys galore. The Carlinville one is intriguing since it features both boys’ and girls’ games.
Meanwhile, the Roxana girls are shuffling off to Buffalo for a tourney at Tri-City High and the Alton girls are traveling to Jefferson City, Mo., for a quality affair.
As for the wrestling scene, there’s high-profile competition at Granite City and Lincoln. Alton and the host Warriors are at Granite City. Roxana travels to Lincoln.
He’s a glance at the tournament landscape for Greater Alton area squads:
Alton, 6-2, faces Raleigh Egypt of Memphis, Tenn., in the opener at 8:30 a.m. — yawn, that’s early — on Dec. 28. The Redbirds have fared well in the past at Centralia and aim to continue their success in the 73rd annual event, a staple since 1942.
Last year, the host Orphans defeated the Redbirds in the championship game. This time, Alton may have to defeat two or three Tennessee teams to get to the finals. Jacksonville, which won the AHS Tip-Off Classic, also is in the Birds’ bracket. Centralia figures to make it through the other bracket.
“It’s a good tournament and you get to play a handful of teams you usually don’t see,” AHS coach Eric Smith said. “The teams in it play a wide range of styles, so it’s a good experience.”
Senior Marcus Latham and junior Maurice Edwards power the Redbirds, enjoying a 4-0 getaway in the Southwestern Conference. Latham is averaging a team-best 15.2 points per game.
CM, 7-2, opens at 2 p.m. on Dec. 26 against Sparta and 6-2 Marquette clashes with Triad at 7 p.m. The Eagles are considered the top squad in Pool B, which also includes Lebanon. The Explorers are rated first in Pool C, which also features Lovejoy. It’s a 12-team, four-pool setup with Columbia favored in Pool A and Freeburg regarded as the best team in Pool D.
The Eagles offer balanced scoring with brothers David and Brett Lane, among others, leading the way. Guard Shandon Boone is the Explorers’ main threat. CM took third and Marquette finished fourth in last year’s tournament at Freeburg.
“We’re going in there with the mindset of winning the whole thing,” CM coach Doug Carey said. “The tournament is a good barometer of where we are and should be for the rest of the season.”
Marquette coach Steve Medford said, “Obviously, our goal is to just get better. There are some pretty good teams in the tournament and Columbia is loaded. It could be between us or CM playing them (Columbia Eagles) in the championship game.”
Pool play continues Dec. 28, then crossover games follow the next two days. The championship affair is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 30.
Roxana hopes to make the most of its time in the two-day Duster Thomas Hoops Classic. The 7-3 Shells, spurred by hot-shooting Trace Gentry, will play the host Panthers in their second game. It’s set for 7 p.m. on Dec. 28. Roxana first meets Red Bud at 2:30 that afternoon.
The championship game is set for Dec. 29.
“The tournament is huge for us because Pinckneyville is in our sub-sectional,” Roxana coach Mark Briggs said. “It’s going to be a tough tourney and the Christmas one always gets you going for the second half of the season.”
The 4-5 EA-WR Oilers, backed by career 1,000-point producer Blake Marks, will tangle with Gillespie, Carlinville and Bunker Hill for certain on the Cavaliers’ court. They battle top-ranked Gillespie at 8 p.m. Dec. 26 in their tourney opener and then tangle with Bunker Hill at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 28.
“It’s a tournament with a lot of parity and I think we can compete,” EA-WR coach Kyle Duncan said. “We want to get some wins and have a good shot at success in it. We’d like to get a chance to play for the championship.”
It’s a rugged tournament with CM having to contend with Class 1A power Calhoun in Pool B. Granite City and host Jersey are also in that pool at George Havens Gym.
Southwestern and Collinsville are cast in Pool A with Carrollton and Freeburg.
The Eagles play Jersey at 3 p.m. and Granite City at 7:30 on Dec. 28. CM’s key game will be at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 29 vs. Calhoun. Southwestern and Collinsville clash at 6 p.m. on Dec. 28 in a game that could determine a pool winner.
Junior Allie Troeckler (20.1 points) paces 6-5 CM. Southwestern relies on Maddy Greeling, while defending champion Calhoun leans on Grace and Emma Baalman, plus Kassidy Klocke. The Warriors finished second in last year’s Class 1A state finals.
The Jersey title game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 30.
At Jefferson City, Mo.
The 1-8 Redbirds, caught in a 7-game skid, hope to get on track during the 3-day, 8-team State Farm affair at Jefferson Helias High. They go up against Jefferson City at 4 p.m. on Dec. 28 in their tourney opener. AHS is the only Illinois team in the event.
Eureka, St. Joseph-Benton, Columbia Hickman, Lebanon, Blue Springs South and host Jefferson Helias Catholic round out the field.
The 2-10 Oilers meet Gillespie at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 26 in their tourney debut. Then they will play Bunker Hill at 2 p.m. on Dec. 28 and Nokomis at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 29.
Games will be played in the high school and middle school gymnasiums. The girls’ title game is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 30 and the boys’ championship game will follow it.
At Buffalo Tri-City
Roxana, the fourth-place finisher in the Waterloo Gibault Candy Cane Tournament, jumps back into action in another tourney.
The 6-6 Shells play Ramsey and the Springfield Lutheran JV team on Dec. 28 at the TCSV Holiday Tournament at Buffalo Tri-City. Then they have a date with Flanagan at 7 p.m. on Dec. 29. Roxana is in Pool B. Mount Pulaski, Kincaid South Fork, Pawnee and host Tri-City are in Pool A.
The championship game is slated for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 30.
At Granite City
The Redbirds are a part of the 55th Annual William “Red” Schmitt Holiday Wrestling Tournament at Memorial Gymnasium inside Granite City High School.
The two-day wrestling extravaganza begins Dec. 28 and concludes Dec. 29. There are 24 teams from 4 states in the field, including the host Warriors. Alton looks to build on its fourth-place finishes the last two years. Alejandro Lopez (145) hopes to follow up his championship at the Mascoutah Invite with another in Granite City.
Roxana is fresh off an 13th-place finish in the Mascoutah Invite, tallying 106 points. Head coach Rob Milazzo hopes to build on that when the Shells head to the Lincoln Holiday Invite on Dec. 29 and 30.
The Shells are led by James Henseler (126), Jarod Foiles (132) and Owen Robinson (285).
So there’s a quick glance, enjoy your holiday tournament viewing and good luck to all the local teams.
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