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Teams gearing up for holiday tournaments

12/20/2012, 7:40pm CST
By Blake Baumgartner

Six area teams will enter play within the week at holiday tournaments. Naperville Central and Metea Valley look to defend their titles at Wheeling and Hinsdale South, respectively.

Naperville Central's Ryan Antony races down court while being defended by Wheaton Warrenville South's Joe Waber in Naperville on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media

With this weekend providing the final tune-ups for all six Naperville area teams before Christmas tournaments begin next week, three of those teams will be looking to sustain momentum.

Neuqua Valley, Benet and Naperville Central all found spots in the Chicago Sun-Times’ Super 25 this week and those three have combined for a 25-5 record entering play this weekend.

The 20th-ranked Redhawks, with wins over a pair of teams that currently sit in the Super 25 — No. 9 Oswego and 13th-ranked Benet — sit at 5-3 entering their game Friday night at Glenbard North before defending their Wheeling Hardwood Classic title next week.

“We like where we are. It’s been a stretch. (Last Friday) night’s result (win over Wheaton Warrenville South) might have been because of our schedule,” Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said. “We’ve had an unbelievable, tough schedule and if people say we haven’t, they don’t know. They don’t understand basketball. We’ve beat a lot of good programs and our three losses are to three very good basketball teams.

“We hit Glenbard East. They’re rolling; they’re playing really well right now. West Aurora … we had our chances down the stretch and just didn’t finish the game and, obviously, Proviso East. I thought we played pretty well. We just couldn’t stop them. But I’m real happy with where we’re at and we just continue to strive to get better.”

Kramer’s Redhawks defeated a pair of East Suburban Catholic Conference foes in Carmel and St. Viator along with Libertyville and Stevenson last year en route to winning the Wheeling title.

“I like our draw. I don’t know a whole lot about Streamwood, but we will. We’ll see them,” Kramer said. “If we beat (Streamwood), we’ll play Prospect or Deerfield. Prospect is a good basketball program. We’ve played them before, so they’re always a good program. Then if we get two wins, we might run into (No. 8) Niles Notre Dame and I know they’re a very good basketball team. We have our work cut out for us, but you know what? We’re looking forward to having another week of just getting better.”

The other program that came away with a title in a Christmas tournament last year, Metea Valley, is riding a five-game winning streak coming into Friday night’s battle with Bartlett after getting off to a 1-4 start.

The winner between the Hawks and Mustangs moves to a full game behind Neuqua Valley in the Upstate Eight Valley race.

The Mustangs open defense of their Hinsdale South Holiday Tournament title Wednesday as the eighth seed against Glenbrook South and could meet top-seeded Lake Forest on Thursday.

“We play the Hinsdale South Tournament — obviously we want to keep getting better, keep playing well and then we have that week off,” Metea coach Bob Vozza said. “So our (next) game after the 29th will not be until Neuqua (on Jan. 12), so we’ll have a little break there. So you want to be playing well. You want to continue (to) progress.

“You’ve got a lot of games in those short amount of time that don’t allow a lot of practice time, but I think it’ll be good for our group to continue to try and get better. We’re not where we need to be and that’s a good thing at this time of year. We’re playing well lately.”  

Eleventh-ranked Neuqua Valley is off to a 10-0 start (6-0 in the Upstate Eight Valley) and goes to East Aurora for its play over Christmas.

Opening on Wednesday with Geneva, a four-day sweep at East Aurora would duplicate the Wildcats’ 14-0 start to begin the 2010-11 season heading into 2013 with games against Bolingbrook and Metea Valley.

“East (Aurora) will give us a chance to play closer to home and hopefully get more fans at our games.  They have always run a great tourney and we are excited to play some different teams,” according to Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton.

Benet, the other 10-win team in the Naperville area, enters play in the prestigious Proviso West Tournament Saturday at 3:45 p.m. against Urban Prep West of Chicago. The Redwings (10-2) hope to sustain the momentum gleaned last week after following up their second loss (39-34 to Thornton Fractional North) with three straight victories.

The Redwings, who won the Proviso West Tournament two years, finished the week by getting a 44-31 victory over 15th-ranked St. Ignatius Saturday in the CCL/ESCC Challenge.  

The 32-team field at Proviso West features five of the Sun-Times’ top 13 teams. The Redwings could potentially meet No. 5 Proviso East in the quarterfinals, No. 4 Homewood-Flossmoor in the semifinals and No. 3 Morgan Park in the title game.

“We’re worried about playing good basketball. There’s so many good teams in that tournament. They’ve expanded to 32 (teams), so it’s even tougher now. Even more quality teams,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “You have to win an extra game. You worry about winning a tournament when you get to like the (semifinals). Right now, we’re just worried about playing consistent basketball, playing better as the season goes on and seeing where that takes us.”

Both Naperville North (6-2) and Waubonsie Valley (6-4) will head to the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York next week but aren’t scheduled to face off with one another in pool play.

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