Coaches approach holiday basketball tournaments in different ways.
For many, the goal is simply to keep developing their team and play as many games as possible. For at least one Quad-City boys basketball team — undefeated United Township — the goal is to absolutely take home the title.
The Panthers (10-0) are the top seed in the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament, opening against Chicago Mount Carmel at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday at Dawdy Hawkins Gymnasium.
“Our goal is to go down there and win it,” UT coach Ryan Webber said. “We want to go down there and play really solid. We know there’s a lot of good competition. But that’s our goal. Our goal is not to go down there and play for second. We are going to try and win.”
UT is coming off close but impressive wins against challenging foes. On Dec. 16, they beat Quincy by two points and followed that up with a win against Bettendorf in the Genesis Shootout the next night. Both games went to the wire.
On Thursday they upped their record to 10-0 with a 75-61 win over Alleman at home.
“We are just kind of focused on trying to get better, trying to get areas of our game that we need to improve and quickly as we head into the second half,” Webber said.
The biggest area of that is team rebounding, he said.
“We have to pursue the ball better and be tougher on box outs," he said. "We’ve got to get our guards down there helping and rebounding collectively a lot better than we have.”
Also participating in the Pekin tourney is Moline (7-4), which opens against Plainfield East at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Dawdy Hawkins Gym.
Two other Quad-City region teams have the No. 1 seed in holiday hoops events — the Rock Island girls and Rockridge boys.
The Rockets (6-3) will be seeking their fourth straight Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament title. But coach Toby Whiteman does not kid himself — this is not the same team that won those titles.
“We are a different team than we had in the last three or four years,” he said. “It’s nice to get that No. 1 seed and be looked upon like that. People respect our program. “
“On the same hand, this year more than any year we have been down there, there are probably six maybe even seven teams out of 16 that have a legitimate chance of playing well and having a shot to win it.”
He includes No. 2 seed West Hancock, No. 3 Illini West and No. 4 Illini Bluffs plus Canton, Monmouth-Roseville, Farmington and Pittsfield.
Whiteman would like to win the title, but that’s not what’s most important to him.
“My goal hasn’t been to go down there and win at all costs,” he said. “Obviously we want to win it. We want to get better from game to game and play good competition.”
He hopes to learn more about his team, and where it’s at so far this season, he added. The Rockets’ first game is at 8 p.m. against Liberty on Wednesday.
The Rock Island girls basketball team (11-1) heads to Bloomington-Normal for the State Farm Holiday Classic with a No. 3 ranking in Class 4A and the top seed in the tourney but also knowing the road to the championship will not be easy.
North Lawndale, which beat the Rocks for the title last year, is in Rocky’s bracket and could meet them in the semifinals.
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Rock Island opens play at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday against Plainfield South.
“The State Farm tournament is always good,” said Rocky coach Thad Hoover. “It’s really good this year. Springfield is 12-0.
“Even the middle seeds, we have teams with 10-2 records. It’s a solid tournament. If you don’t do things well … (you) are going to get exposed there.”
There’s a good chance the Rocks will have to face at least two of the top four seeds (North Lawndale, Morton and Springfield) if they are to win the tourney. The latter two are in the other bracket.
“And that would be impressive for anybody, whoever ends up winning it,” Hoover said.
The Rocks hope to have starting point guard Chrislyn Carr back for the tourney after she missed a game early this week due to concussion protocol. Carr woke up last Friday after the United Township game the previous night with a headache and it was discovered she had a concussion.
On the plus side, Mariah Anderson, who had a hand injury earlier this season, is rounding into shape and is expected to be among the Rocks top six as the season progresses.
Hoover views the State Farm Classic as an opportunity for team bonding and growth.
"You get court time between games where you can work on things you can do better," he said. “It’s a lot of basketball, so you hope to make strides for sure.”