Boys Basketball

Tis the season for holiday hoops. Here’s an overview of this week’s tournaments.

Collinsville’s Ray’Sean Taylor battles for the ball during Saturday’s Collinsville-Prairie Farms Holiday Classic championship game at Collinsville High School.
Collinsville’s Ray’Sean Taylor battles for the ball during Saturday’s Collinsville-Prairie Farms Holiday Classic championship game at Collinsville High School. For the News-Democrat

35th annual Collinsville Holiday Tournament

The Collinsville Kahoks enter their own 35th annual Collinsville Holiday Tourrnament led by one of the top guards in the state in junior Ray-Sean Taylor and are 11-2 heading into the three-day event which begins Thursday at Vergil Fletcher Gymnasium.

But in an event which will feature Class 3A state powers Springfield Southeast and Rockford East along with Southwestern Conference rivals East St. Louis, Edwardsville and Belleville East, veteran coach Darin Lee knows the Kahoks can’t let down if they hope to be standing on top late Saturday night.

“We have a lot of the same guys back. We think we have a legitimate shot,’’ Lee said. “We just have to come out and play well, put three or four games together to win it.

“We’ll be defending great players. That’s something we want to do better. They are high-octane players that you aren’t going to be able to stop. But you have to at least contain them.’’

The Kahoks begin their quest to defend their home court at 6:30 p.m. Thursday when they take on Chicago Hansberry College Prep High School in the sixth of eight first round games. Always one of the top holiday hoops events in the state, the 2018 edition of the Collinsville Holiday Tourmament has put together another loaded field.

Among the favorites are Springfield Southeast (8-1) which placed second in the Class 3A state tournament a year ago. Undefeated Rockford East (11-0) and perennial state power Lincoln (9-0) along with East St. Louis (8-3) also are contenders.

“It’s an outstanding field which is something you always strive for,’’ Lee said. “You get better by playing good teams.’’

Springfield Southeast will open the tournament at 9 a.m. on Thursday when it takes on Oakville, (Mo.) Tournament action continues through Saturday with the title game set for 7:30 p.m.

76th annual Centralia Holiday Tournament

With victories over some of the top teams in Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee already in the books in the early part of the season, the defending Class 4A state champion Belleville West Maroons head to Centralia to attempt a repeat.

Led by a senior-dominated group, the Maroons (11-0) open defense of the Centralia title when they take on Cahokia (1-6)at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Centralia High School. West defeated Champaign Central 62-61 in the title game a year ago but fell to Chicago Marist (51-47) in the championship game two years ago.

Champaign Central (4-4) and Marist (4-4) are back in the field again this year along with state-ranked Evanston (9-1) as well as three of the top teams from Tennessee.

“The Centralia Tournament is one that we really enjoy playing in. It’s a tremendous event against great competition,’’ West coach Joe Muniz said recently. “We’re playing good basketball and I’m pleased at where we’re at. But we’ve still got a lot of areas in which we still need to work on and improve upon..’’

Champaign Central will take Thornton Fractional North in the tournament opener at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Tournament action continues through Saturday with the title game set for 9 p.m.

Mater Dei Christmas Tournament

Undefeated and the top-ranked Class 2A team in the state, the Nashville Hornets (11-0) headline an exceptional field for the 55th annual Mater Dei Holiday Tournament which begins on Wednesday at Mater Dei High School

The tournament continues through Saturday with the title game set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Red Bay,Ala, Metro East Lutheran, Mascoutah and host Mater Dei are the the other teams in Pool A.

Briarcrest Christian, Tenn, and defending Class 1A state champion Okawville are two of five solid teams in Pool B which also includes Class 3A power Highland, Central and Carlyle.

Columbia-Freeburg Holiday Tournament

Alton Marquette (11-1) along with co-hosts Freeburg and Columbia are just three of the top teams who will compete for four straight days at Freeburg High School beginning on Wednesday.

Marquette and Freeburg appear to be the top teams in Pool A which also includes Gibault, Valmeyer and Waterloo. Perennial Cahokia Conference power Columbia, Dupo, Triad, Lovejoy and Civic Memorial are in Pool B.

The tournament concludes on Saturday.

12th Duster Thomas Invitational

The Wesclin Warriors (6-5) will take on Steeleville in one of eight first round games at Pinckneyville High School on Dec. 27. Gametime is set for 6:30 p.m.

Quarterfinal round games in both the winners and losers brackets are on Dec. 28 with the semifinals and championship game set for Saturday. The title game is set for 8 p.m.

Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament

New Athens, Sparta, Red Bud and New Athens are competing in this event which begins on Wednesday at Sesser-Valier High School.

The title game is Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

47th Vandalia Invitational

(Glen Carbon) Father McGivney (3-10) is the lone metro east area team competing in the pool play event which begins Wednesday at Vandalia High School.

The Griffins will play Meridian at 6:30 p.m. in their first round game. The title game is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday.


Mascoutah Invitational

With its only loss coming against undefeated and state-ranked Civic Memorial, the Mater Dei Knights could be the team to beat when action begins at Mascoutah High School on Thursday.

Entering its first round game, the Knights (11-1) will take on Riverview Gardens, (Mo.) in the tournament opener on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Other teams to watch include O’Fallon (8-3), Highland (10-3) and Nashville (9-3). Bellevile East, playing a schedule which has included defending state champions Danville Schlarman (Class 1A) and Peoria Richwoods (3A) is just 7-5 but is a true darkhorse to win the title.

Tournament action continues through Saturday with the title game set for 7:30 p.m.

Lebanon Christmas Tournament

Off to one of its finest starts in recent school history, the Marissa Meteors (11-2) will be tested when they play Freeburg (9-3) in a first-round game on Wednesday beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Three-time defending champion Lebanon (11-4), led by twin sisters Emily and Abigail Reinneck along with Piasa Southwestern (11-2) and Columbia, which won the Gibault Candy Cane Classic a week ago, are also teams to watch. Columbia is also 11-2 on the season.

The title game is set for 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Duchesne Holiday Classic

The winless Granite City Warriors (0-11) look to get on the right track this week at Duchesne High School beginning on Thursday.

The Warriors will take on Tolton in their first round game at 3 p.m. The event runs through Saturday with the title game set for 3 pm.

Visitation Christmas Tournament

Fresh off an 82-21 win over the host school on Saturday, the Edwardsville Tigers (13-1) will take on Cor Jesu in a quarterfinal round game at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Edwardsville was ranked fourth in the first Class 4A state poll released earlier this month.

The title game is set for 8 p.m. Friday.

Jerseyville Holiday Tournament

Triad (3-7) is one of three local teams competing in this pool play event which begins Thursday at Jersey High School.

The Knights will take on Alton (6-6) at noon in their first round game. Marquette is also in the field. The tournament concludes Saturday with the championship game slated for 7:30 p.m.

Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.