Huntley senior guard Aiden Wieczorek came off the bench in the Red Raiders’ opening game at DeKalb’s Chuck Dayton Classic, only, coach Will Benson said, because Wieczorek had been away from the team for more than a week.
Wieczorek, set back by the flu, apparently was all well, however, by tournament time. He started every tournament game after that, helped the Raiders to their first Dayton Classic title and picked up MVP honors.
Huntley (11-2) allowed 145 points in four tournament games (36.3 per game) and did not give up more than 46 in any game. Guard Ben Ahmer joined Wieczorek on the All-Tournament team.
“He hadn’t done anything in 10 days,” Benson said. “I told him, ‘It’s not often you’re MVP of a tournament when you don’t start every game.’ He looked as good as he’s looked all year.”
Wieczorek averages 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and 1.5 steals a game for the Raiders and often draws opponents’ toughest guards on defense.
Benson was really pleased with his team’s defense, particularly in a situation with limited preparation time. He felt East Moline United Township presented a tough matchup since Panthers coach Ryan Webber uses so many different offensive looks.
“Without practice and just film, (assistant coach) Ryan Starnes and I had to break it down,” Benson said. “There’s no way I could have done that by myself. I valued (Starnes’) help all week. especially for that game.”
The second-round win over United Township was the closest game of the tournament for the Raiders, a 55-46 win. It was close late, but two 3-pointers from Ahmer in the last 2 minutes and some crucial defensive stops made the difference.
Huntley beat DeKalb, 65-45, in the semifinal, then dropped Geneva, 47-26, for the championship.
“Our team fits together well,” Benson said. “Noah Only had an outstanding tournament with a lot of good minutes. What Nate Ary brings to the table is stuff other guys don’t bring. He’s very strong and scores inside for a guard. They all complement each other well. When they’re all doing their role we’re a little harder to guard.”
Another MVP: McHenry guard Anthony Fowler was named the MVP of the Maine East Holiday Tournament after averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds and hitting 60% on field goals.
Fowler, a senior lefty, hit 33-of-55 field goals for the four games as the Warriors went 2-2.
“Almost every game he had eight or nine free throws,” Warriors coach Chris Madson said. “We played a lot slower and ran everything through him. He didn’t shoot a lot of 3s, it helped his percentages a lot.”
Fowler is averaging 17.8 points and 6.5 rebounds a game and hitting 55.6% on field goals and 81.5% on free throws for the season. On 2-point attempts only, he is hitting 63.8%. Madson said he has scored 20 in all but four games.
“We’re going to have some tough competition coming up with Huntley, Burlington Central and Crystal Lake South,” Madson said. “(Fowler) just does a really good job. (Former Warriors guard) Gavin (Markgraff) was such a great shooter and Anthony’s a great scorer.
“He does stuff that, as a coach you cringe, and then it goes in. I don’t know how he does it. He’s a pure scorer and he’s starting to figure it out.”
Tough to deal with: Marian Central’s 6-foot-5 sophomore Christian Bentancur, an NCAA Division I prospect likely at tight end, is proving difficult for opponents on both ends of the floor.
Bentancur led Jacobs’ Hinkle Holiday Classic in scoring with 106 points in five games. He also has been disruptive at the top of the Hurricanes’ 1-3-1 zone defense, where he can change and deflect balls. The big lefty was a unanimous All-Tournament selection.
“Christian is a tough matchup because of his ability to run,” Hurricanes coach Charley Walsh said. “He’s strong down low, he can move and if you give him a 15-foot shot he can hit it.”
Marian showed the 1-3-1 more often in the Hinkle Holiday Classic with good results, as the Hurricanes (7-9) finished 3-2 in the tournament.
“We’ve been working on it. I’m long and pretty fast and I can get around,” Bentancur said. “It’s a little tiring, but I get through it. Every time we get in 1-3-1, I’m on top and we can get some tips and steals.”
Nick of time: Jacobs got guard Nick McCoy, who was its most experienced player, back for the final two games of the Hinkle Holiday Classic after missing the first part of the season with a broken bone in his left (nonshooting) hand.
McCoy scored 10 points in the final game of the tournament, a 45-41 win over Grant.
McCoy broke his left pinkie finger three days before the season started and required surgery. He has a metal splint when he is not playing, but taped up the finger with foam protection Tuesday.
“(Monday) I couldn’t dribble well, (Tuesday) it was good,” said McCoy, who has been able to do some running since it was an upper-body injury. “I’ve been dying to get out there. I need to get back into shape, get back to full speed and everything. I definitely need a little bit of work.
“It was definitely fun to get back out there and great to see the team get a win after we’ve had a tough start to the season.”
The Golden Eagles (3-10) also have been without 6-6 Grant Stec, who is recovering from a leg injury. To compound matters, Jacobs also was missing point guard Isiah Jackson, who had been its best player, to a COVID-19 quarantine. Eagles coach Jimmy Roberts said Jackson will miss the first game after the break because of a 10-day quarantine.
Coming back strong: Marengo was thrilled last week when several of its players who were injured or sick returned to the lineup. It made a huge difference as the Indians took third place in their own 71st Annual E.C. Nichols Tournament.
Marengo defeated Rockford Christian, 58-49, for third place. Tournament champion Wauconda beat the Indians, 80-48, in the semifinals. Marengo lost to Rockford Christian earlier in the month.
“We’re playing better. It will be nice when we get to practice for a chunk as a whole team,” Marengo coach Nate Wright said. “The teams we beat went 3-1 in the tournament.”
Marengo had gone a couple weeks when it struggled to practice or play games with seven players. Players like forwards Exzavier Meyer (sickness) and Jack Schirmer (shoulder) returned for the tournament and the Indians’ level of play increased significantly.
There will be blood: Cary-Grove guard Mike Clarke had back-to-back games at the Hinkle Holiday Classic in which he wound up with facial cuts.
Against Loyola before Christmas, Clarke caught an elbow and suffered a cut lower lip. He returned to the three-overtime game, which the Trojans lost.
On Monday, the first day of bracket play, Clarke sustained a cut on his left forehead and again had to leave the game for a short stretch.
“Mikey looks like he’s been through a war the last two days,” Trojans coach Adam McCloud said.
Tough stretch: Dundee-Crown had a challenging week at DeKalb’s Chuck Dayton Holiday Classic with 10 players missing on Tuesday due to COVID-19 quarantine.
“It’s been more frustrating than difficult in the fact that we are missing lots of experienced players,” Chargers coach Lance Huber said. “That has made it limited in what we can play in certain situations. The guys have been doing the best they can.
“Some guys are logging lots of minutes and when you play four straight days, some guys might be really tired by the end of the week. They will be sleeping very well this weekend.”
The Chargers (8-4) finished 2-2 in the tournament, going 2-1 in the consolation bracket after losing to Plainfield East in overtime in the first round.
All-Hinkle: The local players making the All-Tournament team at the Hinkle Holiday Classic were Bentancur, Clarke, Crystal Lake South’s Cooper LePage C-G’s Clarke and Johnsburg’s Dylan Schmidt. Bentancur and LePage were unanimous picks.
Source: The Daily Chronicle