Macomb, Ill. — The two-time defending champion West Hancock Titans have earned the top seed heading into the 74th edition of the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament. The Titans will be aiming to become just the fourth school to ever win three consecutive tournaments and first since Rockridge won three in a row from 2013-2015.
West Hancock will be led once again by venerable head coach Reno Pinkston and senior Drake Hammel. Hammel, the reigning tournament MVP, has amassed an amazing 189 points in tournament play in his career, resulting in a 11-1 team record. He has scored in double figures in every game except the one loss suffered his freshman season to Canton in the semifinal round.
The Titans’ first round opponent will be Illini Bluffs in a rematch of a semifinal game played two years ago won by West Hancock 69-49. The game is slated for 8:00 pm on December 26 and will be the seventh of eight games played on the opening day.
Abingdon-Avon head coach Kent Jones will lead his team into the tournament as the No. 2 seed. The Tornadoes feature a veteran squad, led by two-time All-Tournament selection senior Ryan Adolphson. Fellow seniors Lucas Tinkham and Graham Struhs make up the core of a team that has won a trophy each of the last three years and made a run to the championship game in 2017, falling to West Hancock 45-33. Junior guard TJ Meyers, who saw time in the tournament last year for Canton, has been a key addition to the Abingdon-Avon roster this season as well.
The Tornadoes’ quest for their first tournament title as a consolidation, and first for Abingdon since 2000, will begin at 2:30 pm December 26 when they take on Camp Point Central. It will be a rematch of a semifinal game played two years ago, won by A-town 40-26. Central has appeared in the third place game in each of the last two seasons.
The No. 3 seed will be the Rockridge Rockets. It is the second consecutive year for the Rockets to receive one of the top four seeds as they were seeded fourth last season before bowing out with losses to Monmouth-Roseville and Jacksonville. Rockridge has posted in impressive 16-8 record since joining the tournament in 2012. Juniors Nate Henry, Jenson Whiteman, and Cole Rusk all saw significant time as sophomores for Rockridge in last year’s tournament.
Rockridge will face off against Canton at 10:30 in the opening round. The Little Giants have also enjoyed their fair share of success in the tournament, winning four championships. Their last title came in 2009, although Canton did make a championship game appearance as recently as 2016.
The fourth ranked Farmington Farmers grabbed the final seed in this year’s tournament and will square off with Illini West at 4:00 pm on December 26. Farmington will look to extend a three-game winning streak in first round games. The Farmers are led by 2018 All-Tournament team selection senior Jaden Rutledge along with a formidable list of returners including seniors Ben Martin, Blake Springer, and Dalton Powell.
Liberty and Brown County will tip-off the tournament at 9:00 am on December 26. Both of these squads will likely be popular darkhorse picks to make a deep tournament run, which should make for an entertaining game for early rising basketball fans.
The Hornets of Brown County feature senior Nathan Hendricker, who at 6-3, boasts one of the most complete skill sets in the tournament. Liberty, meanwhile, brings in a veteran squad with many players having multiple years of tournament experience. The Eagles claimed third place in the Pittsfield Turkey Tournament earlier this season with an impressive victory over Jacksonville Routt. Liberty’s last tournament victory came in the third place game in 2015 when they entered the event as the No. 1 seed.
The third game of day one will be between Eureka and Monmouth-Roseville. Eureka was denied its first ever tournament title in the final seconds of last year’s title game, falling to West Hancock 49-48. This year’s Hornets roster has only one returning starter, junior Matt Martin, but junior Colby Blunier and sophomore Trevor Heffren saw significant time last year also. The Monmouth-Roseville Titans are usually a threat to make a run into the winner’s bracket and this year looks to be no exception. The Titans, who claimed third place in last year’s tournament, can lean on a veteran backcourt with seniors Conner Olson and Reese Kane.
Tournament host Macomb will take on Lewistown in the 6:30 game in the first round. The Bombers and Indians have met in each of the last two tournaments with Macomb taking down Lewistown in the first round in 2017, 61-42, and winning 44-41 in the consolation semifinals last year.
The final game of the first round features the Wethersfield Flying Geese, making their tournament debut against Pittsfield at 9:30 pm. Wethersfield head coach Jeff Parsons, a member of the 2020 Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame class, and junior guard Coltin Quagliano, should give reason for basketball fans to stay up late to see them take on head coach Brad Tomhave and a Saukees squad, that seems to always be at their best in the tournament.
The Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament will be held Thursday December 26, Friday December 27, and Saturday December 28 at Western Hall and Brophy Hall on the campus of Western Illinois University. You can follow along with all the action on the official tournament website holidaybasketball.com as well.
December 15, 2019