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Another round of holiday hoops fun
My Marty Maciaszek | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 1/2/2012 4:02 PM

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The thrills are now gone for another year and it's time to enter the January dog days of the high school basketball season.

There is something captivating about the tournaments before and after Christmas. Four to five games in a short period where there is little time to prepare, celebrate wins or languish over losses.

Teams that were rolling such as St. Viator are suddenly hit with adversity. Struggling teams such as Elk Grove and Hersey suddenly find a spark.

It's a great time to see a lot of teams and players from different areas. To reconnect with a lot of familiar faces through the years.

And for the eighth time, here's a look back at some of the gifts from this year's boys holiday season.

Best team

It's very similar to this point a year ago, when parity made it difficult to determine just who is the best in the Mid-Suburban League.

But as for the best team at the holidays, the top finisher was Schaumburg, which lost to unbeaten Metea Valley in the title game of the inaugural Hinsdale South Tournament.

The Saxons had to beat a quality Brother Rice team in the semifinals to get a shot at Metea. Christian Spandiary had a tremendous tournament by averaging 20.5 points a game junior guard Kyle Bolger broke out scoring-wise at 14.5 a game.

The last two years the Saxons made it to the sectional finals the hard way as a double-figure seed that had to win a play-in game. That's something they are in position to avoid this year.

Best team story

Elk Grove wasn't regarded as a contender in its own four-team pool as it came into the Jacobs tournament with 2 wins. But they went 3-0 with a pair of last-second 1-point wins over Barrington and Rockford Jefferson.

The Grenadiers proved they were no fluke in the championship round. They finished fourth with a pair of 2-point losses to then-unbeaten Crystal Lake Central in the semifinals and to Class 1A power Hope and Illinois-bound guard Jalen James in the third-place game.

Junior Austin Amann had a tremendous tourney and Jeff Miceli and Kishan Patel have brought some of the toughness and success from the football team's quarterfinal run. The Grenadiers are only 5-8 but played like a team that will have an impact in the Mid-Suburban East race.

The MSL East also had fifth-place finishes and 3-1 records from Rolling Meadows at Hinsdale South and Prospect at Wheeling. Hersey recovered from an opening-round loss at Pekin to downstate Morton to take the consolation title.

Leyden also went 3-1 to finish third at Glenbard West and its loss was to the unbeaten hosts.

Memorable holiday start

Christian Liberty, in its third year as an IHSA member school, played in a holiday tournament for the first time at Alden-Hebron.

The Chargers left with a 4-0 record and tourney title and senior Luke Comerouski surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his varsity career.

Best individual effort

A lot has been expected of Schaumburg senior Christian Spandiary in his third varsity season. Spandiary has delivered by leading the team in scoring at 16.3 points a game.

Spandiary was the Saxons' leading scorer in all four of their games at Hinsdale South and averaged 20.5 points en route to all-tourney honors. He scored 28 in a semifinal win over Brother Rice and had 18 and three 3-pointers in the title-game loss to unbeaten Metea Valley.

Other noteworthy efforts

Players who earned all-tournament honors from A to Z:

Austin Amann, Elk Grove -- The junior averaged 17.4 points at Jacobs and his composure was crucial in four games decided by a total of 6 points.

Kyle Bolger, Schaumburg -- The junior guard averaged 14.8 points with 17 in the title game at Hinsdale South.

Alex Herrera, Leyden -- The senior guard averaged 19.8 points, with 32 and five 3s in a second-round win, and made 27-of-29 free throws.

Mike LaTulip, Prospect -- The repeat Wheeling all-tourney guard averaged 21.5 points and hit eight 3s.

D.J. Morris, St. Viator -- The senior point guard broke out to average 16.5 points as a repeat selection at Wheeling.

Brian Nelms, Meadows -- The senior point guard averaged 13.3 points at Hinsdale South as the Mustangs kept rolling after an 0-3 start.

Austin Terry, Hoffman -- The senior averaged 13.8 points with a high of 18 points at Elgin.

Brad Zaumseil, Barrington -- The junior point guard averaged 15 points as the Broncos went 3-2 at Jacobs.

Special mentions

Meadows senior Tyler Gaedele was an all-tourney pick at Elgin last year but didn't make it at Hinsdale South even though his scoring average increased by a point to 15.8.

But it was also a smaller pool this year as Hinsdale South picked only 11 players including MVP Kenny Obendorf of Metea Valley compared to 15 at Elgin.

Others who had strong tourney performances include Buffalo Grove's Sam Wacker, Hersey's Kevin Kozil and Sean Reszotko, Wheeling's Jeremy Stephani, Fremd's Adam Gorecki, St. Viator's Ore Arogundade and Maine West's Conor Hart.

A day two remember at Wheeling

Anyone who picked the second round of the 34th Wildcat Hardwood Classic to camp out and make a day of it got more than their money's worth. The quality and depth of this year's tournament was evident as all but one of the eight games was in doubt going into the fourth quarter.

Loyola's Jack Morrissey provided the highlight of the consolation bracket by tying the tourney record for 3s in a game with 10. The quarterfinals produced excellent drama with Notre Dame rallying to beat Lake Park at the buzzer, Stevenson holding off Prospect and Libertyville doing the same to Fremd.

But the biggest stunner was a game that appeared to be a complete runaway as unbeaten St. Viator raced to a 16-point lead on Naperville Central. The Redhawks, led by their super sophomore trio of Nick Czarnowski, Austin Pauga and Ryan Antony, got back into it in the second half and then closed the game on a 16-point run for a 74-60 win.

It was a preview for Naperville Central as it also came back to beat Libertyville in the semifinals and Stevenson to win the title. The final day at Wheeling also produced Libertyville's momentum-swinging third-place win over Notre Dame and Prospect's up-tempo win over St. Viator.

Post-Christmas gifts

Prospect head coach John Camardella and Hersey assistant coach Chad Freeman had good reasons to be sidelined from the sideline last week.

Camardella missed the middle two games at Wheeling for the birth of his daughter, Marley Grace. Freeman missed the Pekin tournament for the birth of twins -- daughter Madelyn and son Jackson.

Varsity assistant Brad Rathe led Prospect in Camardella's absence. Freshman coach Greg Keadle took Freeman's spot as Steve Messer's assistant.

One of these things is like the other ...

The last two first-round games at the Wildcat Hardwood Classic not only featured schools with the same nicknames in Libertyville-Wheeling (Wildcats) and Fremd-Niles North (Vikings) but all four schools are also looking for new football coaches.

The future

It will be interesting to see the potential domino effect from Proviso West's expansion from 16 to 32 teams. How will openings created at other tourneys be filled and therefore impact other tourneys?

Regardless of what happens, the fun of holiday tournament hoops will be back again in a little less than 12 months.