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Plainfield East's Nikia Edom (14) drives to the basket around Plainfield North's Carlie Corrigan (40) . | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
All Jason Nichols wanted for Christmas was to make the Montini tournament for girls what Proviso West is to boys.
“We are close,” the Montini coach said. “I won’t stop here and settle. I want the best teams in the state to play at Montini every Christmas. There is great basketball on the girls’ side and we will showcase it every year at Christmas.”
The 2012 Montini Christmas Tournament features some of the biggest names in the Chicago area. The field includes four teams ranked in the Sun-Times’ top 10 including Marian Catholic, Montini, Plainfield East and Rolling Meadows, and top 20 entry Romeoville.
The 16-team field also includes perennial Public League power Bogan and defending tournament champion St. Joseph.
Players to watch include Hinsdale South guard Toni Romiti, Batavia junior Liza Fruendt, Marian Catholic’s Ashton Millender and Taniya Page, Romeoville’s Kiera Currie and Abby Smith, Plainfield East’s Faith Suggs, Rolling Meadows’ Jackie Zemph and Zion-Benton’s Samantha Rodriguez.
At first glance, Marian Catholic and Montini appear to be on a collision course to meet in the championship game. But Montini may have to negotiate a very good Plainfield East team and former Bronco Nikia Edom in the semifinals, while Marian could be challenged by unbeaten Rolling Meadows.
Next year promises to be even better, Nichols said.
“We will have three openings next year,” he said. “I have one firm commitment from a top team and two more inquiries from significant top programs. People are asking me now if they can get in. I am excited.”
Here is a look at some other tournaments in the area:
Hillcrest Holiday Classic
If you live in the south suburbs or just want to watch your favorite team play two games on one day, this is the place to be. Teams play twice on December 26 and second-round matchups could feature Bloom and Sandburg, Stagg and Homewood-Flossmoor, Rich South and Lockport, and Tinley Park and Hillcrest.
“This promises to be one of the state’s most competitive holiday tournaments,” Hillcrest coach John Maniatis said. “The tournament has teams rich in basketball tradition and features a field that has at one time or another had teams ranked in the top 25 or top 10 in the area.”
The top four seeds are Rich South, Hillcrest, Homewood-Flossmoor and Bloom. But Stagg or Sandburg could sneak into the semifinals. Bloom has been red-hot, winning five in a row behind 6-foot-3 Bria Gaines after a shaky 3-3 start. Homewood-Flossmoor has the dynamic Sydni Johnson.
“There are some intriguing match-ups that bring the neighborhood rivalry factor out and teams looking for redemption,” Maniatis said.
Dundee-Crown Charger Classic
Fenwick and Evanston are expected to meet in the championship game of the 29th annual tournament, but Naperville Central and Maine South could play spoiler roles.
Naperville Central has lost only once this season – in overtime to Wheaton Warrenville South – and recently handed Neuqua Valley its first loss in 15 games. The Redhawks have a solid nucleus with sophomore Cierra Stanciel, junior Shannon Ryan, 6-1 Jamie Cuny and 6-2 Victoria Trowbridge.
Regan Carmichael and 6-3 Jacqui Grant power Maine South, which would probably have to get past a difficult quarterfinal game with Mother McAuley and standout guard Alyssa Siwek.
Wheaton North Tournament
There is a very good chance a new champion will be crowned at the Bill Neibch Girls Basketball Falcon Classic.
Last year, Waubonsie Valley defeated Glenbrook South 38-35 to win the tournament. This year, the two teams meet in a first-round game at 7:30 p.m. on December 26. Top-seeded and 18th-ranked Glenbrook South is 9-3. Waubonsie Valley is winless.
Wheaton North is seeded second and could face No. 3-seed Willowbrook and 5-9 senior Anita Sterling in a semifinal. Fourth-seeded Hinsdale Central, led by super sophomore Gabrielle Rush, and No. 5 seed Lyons could meet for the second time in less than a week in a bottom bracket quarterfinal.
No. 1 contender: Evanston
Darkhorse: Mother McAuley
Best player: Fenwick’s Jade Owens
Keep an eye on: Barrington’s Bryana Hopkins
No. 1 contender: Homewood-Flossmoor
Best player: Bloom’s Bria Gaines
Keep an eye on: Rich South’s Tierra Webb
Favorite: Glenbrook South
No. 1 contender: Wheaton North
Best player: Wheaton North’s Mandy Traversa
Keep an eye on: Hinsdale Central’s Gabrielle Rush
Favorite: Marian Catholic
No. 1 contender: Montini
Best player: Plainfield East’s Faith Suggs
Keep an eye on: Rolling Meadows’ Jackie Zemph