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Starting five: Likas’ thoughts on local prep hoops (Dec. 31, 2021)

Written by corres2

Under the radar

Holiday tournaments were the talk of the week, and understandably so. Especially after all tournaments were canceled last school year, it was a welcome change of pace to have them back in the fold in 2021 — even amid rising COVID-19 issues. One local performance that didn’t get as much attention as a result was that of Cerro Gordo/Bement senior Connor Brown. He already was averaging around 30 points per game entering Tuesday’s nontournament game with Hoopeston Area, and Brown dropped another 40 point during a 64-42 victory against the Cornjerkers.

Storm watch

Both Salt Fork basketball teams impressed at the BSN Classic, with Andrew Johnson’s boys and Brian Russell’s girls both placing second in Bismarck. It’s Russell’s crew that continues to dazzle me with its defense, though. While the Storm struggled to slow Benton (Ind.) Central in the championship game, it held Unity to 27 points and Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin to 18 during pool play. The old saying indicates defense wins championships, and Salt Fork’s girls will hope that’s the case later this season.

Maybe a first

This isn’t an observation on a local team, but it’s still a fascinating note. Illini Central’s boys participated in the Williamsville Holiday Tournament, losing to Unity in the first round and eventually finishing 1-2. The Cougars’ response to this? Becoming a fill-in team at the Greenview Holiday Tournament, defeating Blue Ridge on Thursday as a replacement for Schlarman. No one can say Illini Central isn’t willing to compete after this busy week.

All eyes on them

Just because holiday tournaments have wrapped up doesn’t mean other showcases won’t occur in the coming months. Take St. Joseph-Ogden’s Christie Clinic Shootout, which will transpire next Saturday. Its main event is SJ-O against Tuscola, pitting the Spartans’ Division I prospect, Ty Pence, against Tuscola senior and Loyola Chicago signee Jalen Quinn at 8 p.m.

Time for a rematch

Speaking of games to keep an eye on, don’t miss the Tri-County girls visiting Centennial this coming Thursday. The Titans defeated the Chargers back in November and are coming off wins against Effingham and Charleston. But Centennial willingly filled a vacancy in the rugged State Farm Holiday Classic and appears to be on the rise.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

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