PLANO — The rich tradition of the Plano Christmas Classic always comes with a fun and exciting evening that proceeds the playing of any games.
That came Wednesday night when the majority of teams involved in the 55th season of holiday basketball tradition met with their attending coaches along with media representatives in order to establish rankings for the tourney at the Q Bar and Restaurant here in Plano.
All four Times-area schools received great recognition with Newark, Ottawa, Streator, and Sandwich each earning top-eight seeds and first-round byes.
Play begins for the four clubs on Wednesday, December 27 after the tournament’s first day of contests which starts on Tuesday, December 26.
For the second year in a row, Burlington Central (4-2) was voted as the top seed followed by Newark (6-1) — which finished second last season — checked in at No. 2. Chicago Hubbard (8-2), one of five new Chicago Public League entries to the tournament, was voted No. 3, while defending champion Ottawa (4-4) nailed down the No. 4 seed.
Streator (5-3) was right behind at No. 5, while Sandwich (4-3) garnered the final bye spot by being voted No. 8 within the competitive field.
"I think the addition of the Chicago Public League schools brings a lot of curiosity to the tournament, and I think people will come out to see what those schools have to offer and what they’re made of," said veteran Plano athletics director and tournament director Jim Schmidt. "I’m excited because the field is tough, and if you win this tournament your team can surely say that they played some great teams and some great basketball."
Newark will be trying to reach The Classic final game for a record ninth time after dropping last year’s championship contest to Ottawa. The Norsemen will battle either No. 15 Coal City or unseeded Chicago Crane at 10:30 a.m.
"This is a tournament where a lot of teams can win and you don’t know what the Chicago teams really have, so it’s sort of a mystery," said NHS coach Rick Tollefson. "We love to play at Plano. It’s a real highlight for our community, and our kids look forward to it. Hopefully we can get back to the championship game again but it won’t be easy as always."
As defending champion, Ottawa has played a rock-solid schedule so far and the voting bodies certainly recognized that granting the Pirates a top-four seed and a chance to win back-to-back titles at Plano. They’ll take on either No. 13 Chicago Harlan or unseeded Plano at 3:30 p.m.
"We look at pressure as a privilege, and we’d rather be in a position where we’re expected to do good things," said veteran OHS coach Mark Cooper. "But this field is wide open with the CPS teams and the uncertainty coming in. We’ll get prepared during the next two weeks and get ready for either Harlan or Plano."
For the second straight season, Streator draws the No. 5 seed. The Bulldogs are on a nice run and will look to improve on their 12th-place finish at Plano a season ago when they start the tourney against either No. 12 Chicago Clemente or unseeded Wilmington at 5:30 p.m.
"We’re hoping for a much more successful tournament than last year," said Streator coach Beau Doty. "We feel like we’re playing some good basketball now, and hopefully we can use the Christmas Classic as a springboard toward the rest of the season and really show well this year at a very competitive and fun tournament to play in."
Sandwich finished in ninth place at the Classic last year after being ranked No.7. This season as No. 8, the Indians are hoping for big things when they open up against either No. 9-seeded Chicago King or unseeded Yorkville Christian at 8:30 p.m..
"I’m happy with where we got seeded, and most likely we’ll have to face King in the opening round," said Sandwich coach Brennan Callahan. "We haven’t seen them and they haven’t seen us, so you never know what’s going to happen at the Plano Christmas Classic. But what I do know is that we’re really looking forward to it."
55th Annual Plano Christmas Classic
Tuesday, Dec. 26
#11 La Salle-Peru vs. Hinckley-Big Rock, 9 a.m.
#14 Lisle vs. Kaneland, 10:30 a.m.
#10 Peoria Notre Dame vs. IMSA, 12:30 p.m.
#15 Coal City vs. Chicago Crane, 2 p.m.
#16 Morris vs. Mendota, 3:30 p.m.
#12 Clemente vs. Wilmington, 5:30 p.m.
#13 Chicago Harlan vs. Plano, 7 p.m.
#9 Chicago King vs. Yorkville Christian, 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 27
#7 Yorkville vs. IMSA/Peoria ND, 9 a.m.
#2 Newark vs. Chicago Crane/Coal City 10:30 a.m.
#6 Northridge Prep vs. L-P/H-BR, 12:30 p.m.
#3 Hubbard vs. Kaneland/Lisle, 2 p.m.
#4 Ottawa vs. Plano/Chicago Harlan, 3:30 p.m.
#5 Streator vs. Wilmington/Clemente, 5:30 p.m.
#1 Burlington Central vs. Mendota/Morris, 7 p.m.
#8 Sandwich vs. Yorkville Christian/Chicago King, 8:30 p.m.
Consolation bracket, 3:30-8 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 28
Consolation brackets, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
Championship quarterfinals, 3:30-8:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 29
Consolation brackets, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Championship semifinals, 7, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 30
Consolation brackets, 8:30 a.m.-3:15 p.m.
Fifth-place, 5 p.m.
Third-place, 6:30 p.m.
Championship, 8 p.m.