Shepard celebrates coach Tony Chiuccariello's (front row, second from left) 300th career victory on Dec. 27 and two days later celebrated winning the Elgin tournament. Shepard High School photo

Shepard celebrates coach Tony Chiuccariello's (front row, second from left) 300th career victory on Dec. 27 and two days later celebrated winning the Elgin tournament. Shepard High School photo

Local Hoops Wrap | Four area teams win holiday titles; Shepard coach Chiucciarello notches 300th victory

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By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

With the odds of 8-to-1, 16-to-1 or even 32-to-1 of winning a holiday basketball tournament, championships are not easy to come by.

But the area produced four champions — two boys teams and two girls teams — at the end of December as Mount Carmel won the 16-team Pekin Tournament, Shepard’s boys won the 16-team Elgin Tournament, Nazareth’s girls won the loaded 16-team Montini Tournament and St. Laurence won the eight-team Chicago Christian Tournament.

Also, Lyons’ boys finished second in the 32-team Jack Tosh Tournament, Sandburg’s girls placed second in its own 16-team tournament and Chicago Christian was runner-up in its own eight-team competition.

A closer look at the tournament action:

 

Special times for Shepard
Shepard headed into the Elgin Tournament with a 4-7 record and didn’t have expectations of winning it.

“Going into the tournament, we just talked about getting better,” Shepard coach Tony Chiuccariello said. “We never talked about the big picture. We just wanted to worry about each possession and not worry about the score. The score will take care of itself.”

The score was kind to the Astros four times as they pulled off some surprised and won their first holiday tournament since claiming back-to-back titles in 2020 and 2021, when Mike Smith earned two-time MVP honors.

Shepard beat the hosts, 45-41, for the championship on Dec. 30 as Jermell Lymon had 18 points and Payton Crims 12. Both made the All-Tournament team.

The Astros knocked off Walther Christian, 61-47, in the semifinals on Dec. 29. Lymon had 16 points for the Astros while Crims, Kylan Rogers and Robinson Hale each scored 11.

In the quarterfinals, the Astros beat Waukegan, 70-66. Not only did it vault the team into the semifinals, it gave coach Tony Chiuccariello his 300th career victory.

“We played a great game for four quarters and I’m happy with that,” he said. “But the 300th win — I’m trying to keep that under the radar as much as possible. People are killing me with that. It was a nice win against a quality opponent.”

Crims led with 19 points, Lymon 14, Hale 13 and Jeremiah Story 12 against Waukegan.

Shepard opened the tournament with a 66-33 victory over Bowen, with Crims scoring 20 and Lymon 16.

“Everything clicked,” the coach said. “It was a very good week for us, to say the least.”

MOUNT CARMEL PEKIN

Mount Carmel’s basketball team celebrates winning its second holiday title in Pekin. Mount Carmel photo

 

Peaking in Pekin
Mount Carmel picked up where it left off.

A seven-day layoff and a long trip to the middle of the state did not produce too much rust as the Caravan easily won the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament. It’s the second year in a row the Caravan won at Pekin.

Second-seeded Mount Carmel won all four games in Pekin by an average of 13 points per game including Thursday’s 74-61 triumph over top-seeded Moline in the championship game.

DeAndre Craig and Angelo Ciaravino were named to the All-Tournament team for the Caravan. Ciaravino finished with 20 points while his brother, Anthony, and Craig, each had 18 in the title tilt.

The Caravan also logged victories over Perspectives MSA, Washington and Hersey.

Mount Carmel (15-1) won 12 straight games after a 76-68 loss to Oak Lawn on Nov. 25. The Caravan gets back into action Saturday hosting Waubonsie Valley.

 

ST L 25 scaled

St. Laurence’s Lilliana Magana brings the ball up court against Chicago Christian on Friday. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Vikings win CC tournament again
St. Laurence’s girls had a meat-grinder of a schedule in the 2022 portion of the season with losses to Peotone, De La Salle, Providence, Joliet Catholic, Marist and Marian Catholic, so romping through the Chicago Christian Tournament and winning by an average of 23 points per game was welcomed.

“This helps us reap the rewards of the battles we have been in with Marist and Marian Catholic,” Vikings coach George Shimko said. “It’s good for them to feel their oats a bit.”

It’s the second year of the tournament and the second time the Vikings (11-6) won it.

Sophomore Reaghan Galvin and seniors Lilliana Magana and Hannah Cholke were named to the all-tournament team for the Vikings.

Chicago Christian beat Chicago Agriculture-Science 52-22, Tinley Park 40-33 and Holy Trinity, 49-38 in its pool for a slot in the title game.

 

NAZ e1672762148719

Nazareth’s girls basketball team celebrates their win over Young to win the Montini Tournament on Friday. Nazareth Academy photo

Nazareth triumphs at Montini

Nazareth hung on to beat Young, 62-58, in the finals of the powerhouse Montini Tournament as Grace Carstensen had 20 points and Danni Scully added 19.

The Roadrunners beat the hosts, 65-45, in the semifinals as freshman Stella Sakalas dropped in 23 points.

Nazareth opened play with a 53-15 win over Matea Valley and a 61-26 won over St. Charles East.

Sakalas and Lyons Township’s Kennedy Wanless finished on the all-tournament first team while Carstensen and Amilia Dray joined Lyons’ Nora Ezike on the second team.

 

LYONS 35 scaled

Lyons and senior forward Niklas Polonowski advanced to the title game at the 32-team Jack Tosh Tournament. Photo by Jeff Vorva

 

Lions second at Tosh
Lyons had its unbeaten string snapped at 12 games after getting beat, 56-42 by Rolling Meadows Friday in the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic.

The Lions knocked out St. Ignatius in the semifinal on Thursday, 66-47. Niklas Polonowski had 19 points, Connor Carroll 18 and Jackson Niego 14.

In the quarterfinals, Graham Smith had 16 points and 12 rebounds in a 59-34 victory over Palatine. In the second round, Lyons beat Timothy Christian 69-35 with Carroll scoring 13. The Lions opened play in the tournament with a 61-34 victory over Batavia with Polonowski scoring 16 to lead the way.

Polonowski, Niego and Smith were all-tournament players as were Riverside-Brookfield’s Stefan Cicic and St. Laurence’s Jacob Rice.

 

SANDBURG 3 scaled

Sandburg freshman Zoe Trunk shouts that her 3-point attempt against Minooka was off, but she was wrong as the ball went through the net at the Sandburg tournament on Dec. 26. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Sandburg second
Sandburg’s girls made it to the championship of their own tournament but lost a tight 53-51 decision to Lincoln-Way East on Dec. 28.

Julianna Paddock had 18 points, Josie Canellis 16 and Claire Callaghan nine. The Eagles (11-6) trailed 26-17 at halftime and led by six in the fourth quarter before the Griffins came back and put the game away.

“We have nine underclassmen on the team and the first half of the season was about learning and growing,” Sandburg coach Nick Fotopoulos said. “Going 11-6 in the first half of the season was solid. We had a lot of girls get a lot of good experience.”

Paddock and Canellis were named to the All-Tournament team.

East and Sandburg won’t wait long for the rematch. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday in Orland Park in a SouthWest Suburban Blue contest. They also have a showdown Jan. 24 in Frankfort.

The Shot
Brother Rice closed the State Farm Holiday Classic with a thrilling fifth-place finish in the Large School division as senior Ahmad Henderson hit a buzzer-beating 3-point basket to give the Crusaders a wild 64-61 overtime victory over Peoria on Dec. 29 in Bloomington.

Henderson finished the game with 38 points while Khalil Ross added 12. Peter McShane was credited with five steals.

Earlier in the tournament, the second-seeded Crusaders beat Oswego but lost in the quarterfinals to Mesa (Arizona). They recovered for a triumph over Rock Island before the nail-biting win over Peoria.

 

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