ROCKTON—After a quiet 2021, a pair of local schools are back to hosting their annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Tournaments this weekend.
South Beloit and Hononegah will welcome solid fields back to the area after both schools were unable to host last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hononegah tournament will begin Saturday at noon when Hononegah takes on Normal West. Others in the field include Neuqua Valley and Normal Community.
“The showpiece here is Normal Community,” Hononegah head coach Mike Miller said. “They just had an article in the Sun-Times that they were the best team in Illinois outside of Chicago. They have a 6-foot-6 kid that’s committed to Liberty University. They have a 6-8 kid that is ranked number one in the state in Illinois for his class, and a three-year starting point guard.
“They are legit. They beat East St. Louis twice, and they have legitimate state title hopes, and just ran through a holiday tournament in Rockford.”
Miller said Neuqua Valley will bring a typically solid team.
“They are 12-3 and just really tough like they always are,” Miller said. “You know what you are getting every day: Tough defense and great sets on offense. They are really good. And Normal West is 10-5. They are hard-nosed, have some guys that can make shots and are big and physical. Along with us, people are going to have four really good teams to watch.”
The Indians got off to a terrific start this season before losing 6-foot-6 sharpshooter Brandon Beck to injury. After an ugly loss to Boylan, the Indians have responded with back-to-back wins over Belvidere and Belvidere North heading into the weekend.
• SOUTH BELOIT: The SoBos have a great opportunity to come out on top of their own tournament, but they have to round out the field first.
It can hardly be surprising that there are last-minute considerations as COVID-19 wreaks havoc throughout every level of the sports world. Oregon had to cancel at the last minute, and as of Thursday afternoon, South Beloit was still working to secure Morrison into the field. If they are unable to play, the tourney will be shortened to three games each.
South Beloit coach Matt Stucky said he is a big fan of the tournament, which the SoBos will host for the 14th time.
“I think it’s a great showcase for small school basketball, and it’s a chance to show off our facilities as well,” Stucky said. “We have one of the oldest MLK tourneys in the area, and it’s something our players look forward to every year.”
Stucky said he expects a competitive field.
“Forreston is just a little down this year, but if they hit shots, they can be really tough to beat,” Stucky said. “Harvard is always tough to play because they have a lot of strength and play really good defense. And Morrison has been tough, too, so we’re really hoping they can end up playing.”
South Beloit enters the tournament on a different vibe than in years past. This year’s squad carries a 14-2 record and aspirations of a deep run in the IHSA Class 1A state playoffs.
“We are approaching this tournament with the same mindset as in the past,” Stucky said. “This team has been really good about playing one game at a time and not looking ahead. We’ve won two tournaments with that way of thinking and we need to do the same thing this weekend.”
In the pool opposite South Beloit, AFC, Harvest Christian Academy, North Boone and Stillman Valley will compete.
• Hononegah’s MLK schedule
Noon—Hononegah vs Normal West ; 1:30 pm—Neuqua Valley vs Normal Community ; 4:30 pm—Normal West vs Neuqua Valley; 6 pm—Normal Community vs Hononegah
South Beloit’s MLK schedule
Saturday: 9 a.m.: Harvest Christian vs. AFC; 10:30: Stillman Valley vs. North Boone; noon: South Beloit vs. Morrison; 1:30: Forreston vs. Harvard; 3 p.m. : AFC vs. North Boone; 4:30 p.m. Harvest Christian vs. Stillman Valley; 6 p.m. : Harvard vs. Morrison; 7:30 p.m. South Beloit vs. Forreston.
Monday: 9 a.m. Oregon vs. Forreston, 10:30 a.m.; South Beloit vs. Harvard, noon: Stillman Valley vs. AFC; 1:30 p.m. North Boone vs. Harvest Christian; 3 p.m. seventh place game; 4:30 p.m. fifth place game; 6 p.m. Third place game; 7:30 p.m. title game.