By Marty Farmer
Other than March Madness, Christmas is the best time of the season for high school basketball junkies.
After celebrating Christmas, local high school basketball teams all went back to work in holiday tournaments throughout Chicagoland as a midseason gauge of each team's progress. Obviously, the best gift for hoopsters is a tournament title but simply competing against tough competition is a reward in itself.
Here's an overview of how some local teams performed at several prestigious tournaments.
Led by breakout freshman Brenna Loftus' double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, the Bulldogs notched a 53-41 win over Shepard in the opening round of the Riverside-Brookfield Holiday Classic.
Maddie Meehan (9 points, 6 rebounds), Sarah JnoBaptiste (7 points, 8 rebounds) and Leah Rettke (6 points, 12 rebounds) also contributed for the victors.
"Our Christmas Tournament is so much fun," Meehan said. "There are definitely some very good teams in this tournament."
The Bulldogs defeated Glenbard East 45-38 in another tourney game.
In the second round, Niles North edged RBHS 54-43. JnoBaptise led the Bulldogs with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Loftus and Meehan chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Despite the loss of three starters to graduation, the Bulldogs (15-3) are flourishing with a balanced offense, pressure defense and team chemistry.
"Everyone on our team truly has a role," Meehan said. "Whether a player is an attribute on defense, offense, with rebounding, or any other number of things, everyone's role is needed and acknowledged. Everyone is super different and without what each player brings to our team, I believe we wouldn't be as successful as we have been so far."
Aftfer an opening round 53-44 loss against Palatine, the Lions reeled off four straight wins to claim the consolation championship at the 44th Annual Jack Tosh Holiday Classic.
LTHS defeated Downers Grove South 71-61 in the consolation championship game on Saturday, Dec. 30. Senior guard Tyrese Shines capped off a superb showing at Tosh with 21 points and four rebounds against Downers Grove South. Josh Berry (18 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds) and Nolan Niego (13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) also played major roles for the Lions. LTHS made 14 of 15 free throws (93 percent) and outscored the Mustangs by eight points in the second half to clinch victory.
In the consolation semifinals, LTHS outlasted Sandburg 79-73 in overtime. a red-hot Shines scored a game-high 35 points on 16 of 25 shooting from the floor. Berry and Niego contributed 17 and 15 points, respectively. Reflective of Shines' markmanship from the field, the Lions went 31 of 56 (55 percent) on field goal attempts. THe Lions also won the rebounding battle, 32-19, and outscored the Mustangs 12-6 in overtime.
In earlier tournament action, Niego scored 22 points to go with five rebounds and three assists in the Lions' 58-46 win against Lake Forest. Shines contributed 14 points, while Matt Sloyan and Berry added six points apiece. LTHS made 7 of 10 3-pointers, 11 of 13 free throws and outrebounded the Scouts 22-16.
The Lions also beat Oswego 61-60 in overtime. Shines made 8 of 12 shots to finish with a game-high 23 points, five rebounds and three assists. Lazarius William added 12 points, five rebounds and two steals.
In the Tosh championship game, Conant edged Brother Rice 54-43 in double-overtime. Batavia beat Wheaton North 62-60 for third place. LTHS finished fifth overall with the win against Downers Grove South.
After losing a pair of games at the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic, the Bulldogs rebounded nicely with a pair of wins, 72-59 victory over T.F. South and 65-40 against Rolling Meadows.
In the TF South game, RBHS shot a blistering 67 percent from the floor, including 13-for-21 (62 percent) from beyond the arc. Senior Ryan Cicenas led the way with 23 points. Patrick Hanley (13 points), Zach Vaia (12 points) and Reggie Loury (10 points) also reached double figures scoring. Leading 37-27 at halftime, RBHS outscored the Rebels 24-13 in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
Cameren Terrell led T.F. South with 21 points.
The Bulldogs turned in of their best all-around performances in the Rolling Meadows matchup. RBHS held the Mustangs to 33 percent shooting and won the battle on the boards 31-16. Offensively, Hanley led RBHS with 18 points (4-9 3-pointers) and six assists. Cicenas drained five 3-pointers of his own to finish with 15 points and 4 rebounds.
RBHS lost to McHenry 67-56 in the second round of the Tosh tourney. Cicenas finished with 12 points and five rebounds, while Vaia and Hanley scored 10 points apiece. The Bulldogs trailed 30-28 at the half, but McHenry extended its lead to 53-38 after three quarters.
Gavin Markgraff (20 points, 4 assists) and Patrick Breisch (16 points, 4 assists) paced the Warriors.
The Bulldogs opened tournament play with a 46-45 loss to St. Patrick. The Shamrocks made the game-winning three-pointer with about 20 seconds left. Despite the tough loss, RBHS showed its resilience, erasing a nine-point deficit to take the lead with less than a minute remaining.
Jason Bageanis and Charles Terry each scored 10 points. Andrew Veon chipped in six points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Cicenas (8 points, 4 rebounds) and Vaia (7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) contributed for RBHS as well.