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Girls Basketball: Strong field for Hillcrest Holiday Classic

Bloom's Danielle King IkeMosby celebrate after Blazing Trojans defeated host Hillcrest 73-69 for title Hillcrest Holiday Classic. |
Mary Beth Nolan~For

Bloom's Danielle King and Ikea Mosby celebrate after the Blazing Trojans defeated host Hillcrest 73-69 for the title of the Hillcrest Holiday Classic. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 27, 2014 12:33PM

Talk about crashing the party.

Joliet Catholic and Bolingbrook, this season’s two new entrants to the Hillcrest Holiday Classic, have burst through the door and gone straight to the top of the seeding chart at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

Both are prime candidates to become the 13th different winner in the 35th year of the SouthtownStar-sponsored tournament, scheduled for Thursday through Saturday.

Joliet Catholic (7-0) has two big-time scorers in Jasmine Lumpkin (20.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Nicole Ekhomu (14.9 ppg, 2.9 steals) and three freshmen — Ty Battle, Kennedy Weigt and Jnaya Walker — who led the way for the Angels in capturing the championship at the Rich South Galaxy Tournament and going 2-0 at another tourney in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

“We have played decent basketball to this point, but we have a long way to go in terms of where we want to be,” Joliet Catholic coach Ed Schodrof said. “We were honored to be invited into this prestigious, long-running field of excellence.”

Bolingbrook is 4-1 under first-year coach Chris Smith. The former Joliet Catholic assistant lost some talent to transfers, but also gained Ryaen Johnson (from Waubonsie Valley), who along with Aysia Bugg gives Bolingbrook a solid 1-2 scoring punch.

“Over the years this has been a great tournament and I am hoping we can continue the tradition of good play,” Smith said. “I think (we) have a chance to do very well. If we continue to play hard and under control we can compete with teams.

“The biggest thing for me is for my girls to continue to gain the experience that will help us come playoff time. We haven’t played anywhere near four quarters of good basketball.”

Third-seeded Hillcrest (7-3), led by Tanzania Sherrill, Shayla Joyner and Aliah Acker, has been on both sides of some blowouts, most notable losing big to Homewood-Flossmoor and Crete-Monee and scoring impressive wins over Rich South and Bloom. The Hawks also lost to Joliet Catholic at the Galaxy.

Marist (6-4), the fourth-seed, led by Brooke Wyderski, Claire Finn and Lorna McCall, has lost three games in a row and is feeling the effects of the IHSA’s mandate on stopping hand contact on defense.

“It’s always the same old story with the losses,” RedHawks coach Mary Pat Connolly said. “When the referees stick to their new agenda, it stops the flow of our game. The losses we had ... we had five girls foul out of each game and our opponents are shooting 47 free throws to our 15.

“No excuses, though. We are a very young group trying to find our way. Regardless, the girls are extremely excited to be at Hillcrest. We’ve had some great practices (over) the last week and are hoping to go deep into the winner’s bracket.”

Injuries to Katherine Strong (season-ending ACL) and Danielle King (turf toe) have made life at defending champion Bloom without graduated 2012-13 Player of the Year Bria Gaines even tougher. The Blazing Trojans fell to 3-8 in a 71-49 loss Dec. 19 to Crete-Monee.

“We will do the best we can to defend our title,” Bloom coach Ron Newquist said. “We are a little down right now losing Kat, and now King for a few weeks. We are young (Bloom has eight sophomores), but we are battling and playing hard so you never know.”

Among the dark horses in the field are Sandburg (8-4), Rich Central (8-4), Rich South (7-4) and Lockport (5-2).

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