Having played just one game in 21 days, the Flanagan High School girls basketball team is eager to shake off some cobwebs in the Illinois National Bank Lady Hawk Christmas Classic at Riverton today through Thursday.
"We'd like to get back in the swing of things," said Falcon coach Jeff Sprouse, whose No. 13-state ranked team is 10-1. "That (tournament) gives us a great opportunity to see where we stand."
Flanagan stands second in the 16-team tournament's seedings behind Williamsville (10-0), which is ranked 11th in the state. No. 3-seeded Springfield Lutheran (10-0) and No. 4 Lena-Winslow also have strong teams.
Flanagan's powerful front line took a hit when 6-foot senior Kelsie Laughlin was lost to a knee injury prior to the Falcons' 48-41 loss to IVC Dec. 15. The Southern Illinois volleyball recruit is expected to be out until early January.
Sprouse hopes the tournament prepares his team for a Jan. 2 showdown with Ridgeview at Colfax where the winner will land in the Midstate Conference driver's seat. Flanagan will be playing three games a week in January.
"The depth we've developed will pay dividends in that time frame," said Sprouse, who will miss Laughlin's 14 points per game.
Looking to pick up the slack will be Brittany Leonard (14 ppg) and Laughlin's 6-1 sister, Megan (12 ppg).
Other Falcon starters for today's 9 a.m. tournament opener against No. 15-seeded Franklin will be Caitlyn Jones, Meganne Forney and either Amanda Bohm or Anna Jones.
The other Pantagraph area representative at Riverton will be No. 16-seeded Tremont (0-2), which is playing primarily a junior varsity schedule this season. The Turks open with Williamsville at 7:30 tonight.
Ridgeview (9-2), which has lost to Flanagan and Iroquois West, opens play in the eight-team Sages Holiday Hoopla at 10 a.m. Tuesday against host Monticello.
The Mustangs' second game in the Purple Pool at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday is against Dwight (6-5), a team they defeated 60-57 last month. The Trojans begin the day at 11:45 a.m. opposite Toulon Stark County.
Ridgeview's Dec. 19 loss to Iroquois West came with starters Brianne Ghere, Kalee Bedel and Amanda Thompson sidelined by injuries.
"The whole team was flat," added Ridgeview coach Mindy Whitehouse, who is looking for Sarah Hardman, Alison Eyer and Lauren Kellar to help pick up the slack.
"It is so tough to replace Ghere and Bedel defensively because they are so fast and great on rotation."
Ridgeview is led by Mackenzie Roth, who averages about 15 points per game. Darby Gleeson, a 5-9 forward, provided 16 points, 12 boards and six assists against Iroquois West.
"Darby carried the team," Whitehouse said. "She was basically a one-man show or we would have gotten killed."
A healthy Ridgeview would be the tournament favorite, according to Dwight coach Jeff Froelich.
"It will be a good tournament for our team," he added. "We'll spend one night down there. It will be fun."
It will be even more fun if the Trojans can improve against pressure defenses.
"We knew that would be our Achilles' heel," Froelich said. "Hopefully, over this tournament we can get that fixed."
Dwight is led by Kelli Humbert, who averages 10.3 points and 10.6 rebounds. Kelsey Jorstad, a 6-3 senior, adds 9.0 points as does 5-10 Megan Kohrt.
Mahomet-Seymour (9-2) begins play in the 13th annual Charleston Holiday Tournament at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday against the Paris junior varsity.
Champaign Central, ranked 14th in the state in Class AA, is seeded first and Teutopolis second. Also in the field is Paris, ranked 12th in Class A.
The Bulldogs' only losses were to No. 8-state ranked St. Joseph Ogden, 56-37, and Pontiac, 60-58.
"I think we are starting to come around," said Mahomet-Seymour coach Nathan Seal, whose team will have 5-11 Kathleen Donoho back from a stress fracture. She was averaging 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds before missing four games.
The Bulldogs are led by 5-11 Laura Morris (14.1 ppg) and 5-9 Hillary Hatfield (13.3 ppg).
Seal has seen his team improve in stages, first bolstering its defense, then its half-court offense and finally reducing its turnovers. Now he wants a complete game.
"It's all the little things," he said.
Prairie Central (6-5) will meet Chicago Latin at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the third annual Lisle Holiday Cage Classic.
"Next to the State Farm Classic, it's the best alternative to that," said Hawk coach Andrew Shelby of what he considers to be a very strong, 16-team tournament.
"I think of Rock Falls as being an upper tier team - and us. I feel it's a very winnable tournament if we come out and play hard."
Prairie Central is led by Jara Bachtold (14 ppg).
"Kiley Corban is starting to hit the mid-range jump shot," added Shelby. "Kendra Branch and Jackie Sheppard are playing well in the post. They are containing some of these bigger players."
Shelby ranks defense a team strength.
"I'd say defensively we are capitalizing on errors that we are forcing," he said. "Our press is working well."
Shelby describes Latin as a patient team.
"We have to play at our tempo, force them into some errors and live off of their mistakes," he said.
At Peoria Manual
Lincoln (6-4) opens play in the 12-team Peoria Manual Holiday Tournament at 10 a.m. Wednesday against Peoria High (3-7). The Railsplitters return to the court at 1:30 p.m. to face East St. Louis. Both games are in the Complex Gym.
"We've got things to work on," said Lincoln coach Anne Stoltzenburg. "Defensively, we're doing all right. We need to work on our offense a little. It's our weakest spot, especially inside."
The Railers, who are led by 5-7 senior Christine Presswood, won the Bloomington-Normal State Farm Holiday Classic consolation championship last year.
The Peoria Manual field includes Moline (12-2), which is ranked 10th in the state in Class AA, and No. 11 Washington (8-0 prior to Dec. 22), which is led by Illinois State recruit Maggie Krick.
Tri-Point (6-8) and PBL (3-9) are area representatives in the eight-team Momence Holiday Tournament.
Tri-Point opens against South Newton (Ind.) at 1:30 p.m. Thursday while PBL faces Hanover Central (Ind.) at noon in the other half of the upper bracket.
"I would say Momence is one of the higher seeds," said PBL coach Jim Carley, who rates Hanover Central the favorite in the upper bracket.
"From what I see in the papers, it looks like us, Tri-Point and Watseka are pretty evenly matched. We have split with Watseka and Tri-Point beat Watseka."
PBL has endured a rash of injuries, but all the Panthers are expected to be available this week.
"(Jenna) Seibring and (Eden) Tolley were the last two to come back," said Carley, who has watched Seibring average 12.7 points the last three games. PBL's top scorer is Lauren Boman at nine points per game.
"We've got a few girls, when they are on a hot streak, they can score," Carley said. "Seibring we hope can keep that average up. The (Melissa) Runge girl has been pretty solid."
Tri-Point, which has lost to Momence, is led by 6-foot senior Candyce Miller, who averages 12 points.
"I think the teams are pretty athletic and well disciplined," said Tri-Point coach Jennifer Klusman surveying the field. "I think overall it will be a very good tournament."
Klusman hopes the tournament teaches her team "how to control the tempo of the game and keep our composure and momentum throughout."
At Table Grove
Illini Central (0-9) begins play in the 11-team Lady Rebel Christmas Tournament at 3 p.m. today opposite Elmwood in the Table Grove High School gym.
The field includes No. 10-state ranked Illini Bluffs and No. 15 Carthage.
"It's been rough," said Illini Central coach Scott Kalhammer, who has watched his team follow strong first halves with weak second halves. "I don't know what happens. They just run out of gas I guess."
Kalhammer, whose top scorer is Nicole Robertson (5 ppg), credits the Cougars for sticking with the program.
"They are still trying hard," he said. "No one has quit. They are going to stick it out and try to keep improving. We are not rated last (in the tournament) so I hope we can get a win out of it."