2021 Tournament Preview

For immediate release:

MACOMB, IL — The 75th edition of the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament tips off after a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic Monday, December 27 with its traditional schedule of 26 games over three days.

Rockridge will look to defend its 2019 title as the top seed against 15 challengers. The Rockets have won four of the last seven tournaments, including the most recent, a 47-42 triumph over Farmington in 2019.

Rockridge will lean on the experience of 2019 tournament MVP Nate Henry, who scored 22 points in the championship game in his last appearance at Western Hall. The Rockets, who also claimed a regional title in 2019, have challenged themselves with a difficult schedule this year as each of their three losses have come against large-school opponents.

In a sign of just how loaded the tournament field is this year, Rockridge draws a Brown County squad rolling into the holidays at 7-2. The Hornets had an impressive run at the Beardstown Thanksgiving tournament, taking third place after wins over Griggsville-Perry and Mendon Unity. With a veteran backcourt of Tate Fullerton and Brody Woodwood, BC head coach Eric Jones has the weapons to give plenty of opponents trouble. The Hornets will take on Rockridge in the fourth game of the opening round at 2:30 Monday, December 27. It will be the first meeting between the schools in the tournament since Rockridge took a first round matchup 61-39 in 2013.

In the 9:00 am “doughnut game,” the Camp Point Central Panthers will take on the Canton Little Giants. Canton will look to end a five-game tournament losing streak against the Panthers, in the teams’ first tournament meeting since 2015.

To say Central has had an up-and-down season thus far would be an understatement, but after a long football playoff run, perhaps that was to be expected. The Panthers have split a pair of matchups with Liberty, the #4 seed in the tournament, and took Triopia down to the wire on the road.

Canton loaded its pre-tournament schedule with tough Mid-Illini Conference foes, posting a 1-4 record thus far with a nice win over Morton.

In the 10:30 am game, fourth seeded Liberty takes on Illini Bluffs in their first tournament meeting since Liberty took a quarterfinal matchup in 2015 by the count of 64-56.

The Eagles, ranked No. 7 in the most recent 1A poll, fired out of the gates strong, claiming the Pittsfield Turkey Tournament with wins over PORTA, Central, and rival Payson Seymour in the title game. They have since battled injuries, but have added impressive wins over Triopia and tournament members Illini West and Lewistown.

The game between Liberty and Illini Bluffs will be an intriguing matchup inside and the Eagles boast a powerful front line of seniors Logan Robbins, Breiton Klingele, and Devin Klauser, while Illini Bluffs is led by 6-9 sophomore Hank Alvey. After a 1-5 start, the Tigers have gained some momentum gathering three wins out of their last four contests, with their only setback a close 6-point decision to Lewistown.

The third game of the opening round is a re-match of a first round game from 2019 between the Farmington Farmers and Illini West Chargers. This one figures to be a bit closer than the 57-28 outcome the Farmers enjoyed two years ago.

After making its first tournament championship game appearance in 22 years in 2019, Farmington rides into the 2021 edition with an 8-2 mark, including impressive wins over Macomb, A-Town, and Monmouth-Roseville. Marty Lozier will make his first tournament appearance as head coach hoping to extend the Farmers’ 4-game winning streak in first round games.

Illini West seems poised to put an end to its 5-game tournament losing streak this year led by a balanced attack of backcourt players Nick Manzo and Nolan Deitrich and forward Max Richardson. The Chargers recently put together a 5-game winning streak, including a 17-point victory over West Hancock.

Long-time tournament members Monmouth-Roseville and Pittsfield will face off in a rare meeting in the 4:00 tip off of the opening round. With the success of both programs, it might be surprising that these teams have not seen each other in tournament play in 10 years since an epic semifinal 35-32 win by Monmouth-Roseville in 2011 en route to their most recent MWHT title.

The Titans come in playing their best ball of the year, having beaten Knoxville, West Hancock, and Quincy Notre Dame in recent days. Pittsfield, too, has played well of late. The Saukees are on a three-game winning streak after wins over Winchester West Central, Riverton, and Griggsville-Perry.

The evening session of the first round begins at 6:30 pm as usual with Macomb as the Bombers will take on the Flying Geese of Wethersfield, making just their second appearance in the tournament. Macomb earned the #2 seed on the strength of a perfect 5-0 run through the Spartan Tip-off Classic. The Bombers have suffered three defeats since, but have the skill and depth to turn it around in time to make thier first championship game appearance since 2010. Two members of Macomb’s boy’s golf team that qualified for the state tournament this fall, Connor Hamm and Connor Watson, lead the Macomb backcourt.

Wethersfield recovered nicely from an upset loss to Pittsfield in 2019, capturing the consolation crown with three straight victories. The Geese were poised to make some noise last season behind guard Coltin Quagliano, who led the 2019 event in scoring as a junior before the season was postponed due to the pandemic. This season has not been as kind to IBCA Hall of Fame coach Jeff Parsons as his squad comes into tournament play at 1-7.

The third seeded Eureka Hornets take the floor at 8:00 against the A-Town Tornadoes looking for their first ever tournament title. Long-time Eureka assistant Aaron Dohner is one of four head coaches making their tournament debut as head coach. A-Town’s Cory Link is another.

The Hornets and Tornadoes last met in the tournament in the first round in 2017, a 41-28 win for A-Town. The Tornadoes went all the way to the championship game that year, falling to West Hancock. Eureka made it to the title game the following year, also losing to West Hancock. Eureka, which recently had its 6-game winning streak snapped in a close loss to East Peoria, is led by senior Trevor Heffren, who hit Central for 28 points as a sophomore in the 2019 tournament.

Led by senior guard Easten Schisler, A-Town has gained some momentum heading into the opening round, winning three out of their last five contests. The Tornadoes will look to continue their run of having won a trophy in four consecutive tournaments, including a pair of consolation titles, one third place, and one runner-up.

The final game of the first round should be one to keep fans interested after a long day of basketball. The Fulton County Tournament champs from Lewistown battle the West Hancock Titans, who have won two of the last three MWHT titles. These two last met in the opening round of the 2014 tournament, also as the nightcap. Lewistown won that game 40-36.

The Indians fired out to a 10-0 start with wins over tournament members Farmington and Illini Bluffs before losing their two most recent contests to a pair of ranked teams in Monmouth United and Liberty. Lewistown will have its work cut out to end a four-game first round losing streak as West Hancock is no stranger to the MWHT winners bracket. The Titans have won four consecutive first round games. West Hancock head coach Jeff Dahl, who won a state title with Warsaw in 1997, will make his first appearance in the tournament in 20 years.

Brian Sullivan
Stats Lead & MWHT Committee Member

Leave a Comment