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While not exactly the midway point of the regular season, the SAC Holiday Tournament is looked upon by some coaches as the best test to date on where their team is and if their roster is capable of making a run at a conference title.
Beating three different league teams in such a short time is no easy feat, especially with the balance of the SAC this season. The champion will feel good about its prospects heading into the new year, while teams who lose in the first round will be regrouping once 2013 begins.
One team that seems to have regrouped already is North Side. After losing three straight without their top returning scorer from a year ago in Nygel Jones, the Redskins (5-3) enter the Holiday Tournament with two straight victories, including an upset of then No. 3-ranked Northrop.
North Side is the No. 3 seed in the tournament that begins today and will play host Wayne tonight at approximately 8 p.m.
“We really missed the depth Nygel provides,” North Side coach Shabaz Khaliq said. “He is a high-energy guy who gives us scoring and can play multiple positions.
“We have a full roster again now and a lot of confidence.”
North Side's schedule has been full of challenges, with seven of its eight games on the road, including a pair of trips to Indianapolis for games with Lawrence North and Indianapolis Howe.
The difficulty of the early-season schedule playing without Jones as well as integrating newcomers Mike Davis and Dwight Richards have combined to make the first eight games a valuable learning experience for the Redskins.
“The one thing our guys have realized is we can win on the road,” Khaliq said. “We are going to have to do that because our first game (in the tournament) is against the host team.”
Once again, the tournament format has changed with a day off on Friday to account for Northrop participating in the Hall of Fame Classic at New Castle. There are four games today, with the semifinals scheduled for 6:15 p.m. and approximately 8:15 p.m. on Thursday.
The championship will be 8:15 p.m. Saturday night.
“Every year it seems like the format changes with first some schools closing and now a day off,” Khaliq said. “But it makes it different and unique and there really is a lot more parity than in years past. Teams that don't have good records have played a quality schedule. There really is no game that really stands out where a team is a convincing favorite.”
The Redskins hope they will perform to a level to make them not only a favorite to win the tournament as it progresses, but also a team that will challenge for league and sectional titles over the next few months, something that looked in doubt at certain points earlier in December.
“As games go on, teams develop an identity and I think we are on our way to doing that,” Khaliq said. “The Holiday Tournament allows you to get a good feel for who you are. We will see how our kids respond to certain situations in a big environment.”
All games at Wayne High School
Northrop vs. South Side, 10:15 a.m.
Bishop Luers vs. Snider, 1:45 p.m.
Concordia Lutheran vs. Bishop Dwenger, 5:15 p.m.
North Side vs. Wayne, 8:45 p.m.
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 6:30 p.m.
Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 8:15 p.m.
Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 8:15 p.m.
South Side vs. North Side, 8:30 a.m.
Bishop Luers vs. Bishop Dwenger, noon
Snider vs. Northrop, 3:30 p.m.
Concordia Lutheran vs. Wayne, 7 p.m.
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 3 p.m.
Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 4:45 p.m.
Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 6:15 p.m.