Largest Holiday Tournament in Illinois to celebrate 40th year
The State Farm Holiday Classic (SFHC) will hit the big “4-0” in 2018, and to celebrate, it will welcome a field that includes 27 Regional winners from this past season, including a state champion and four others who took home a state trophy. The 40th annual high school basketball tournament tips off Dec. 26-29, and will mark the sixth consecutive year the tournament has featured at least four state tournament trophy winners from the previous season.
“Despite some inclement weather on Day 1 of our event, the 2017 tournament was a success,” said Tournament President Dan Highland. “Anyone who was at the Shirk Center on the final day saw four memorable championship games in front of a packed house. We look forward to carrying that success into our 40th year!”
Played across four venues in Bloomington-Normal, the SFHC is the largest co-ed high school holiday tournament in Illinois, and one of the largest in the nation. 2018 also marks the 20th consecutive year with State Farm® as title sponsor. The tournament is divided into Small and Large School brackets for both boys’ and girls’ teams, and includes the two-day, 16-team Ron Knisley Memorial Shootout for Special Olympics teams.
Small School Boys Bracket
- State trophy winners: Winnebago (Class 2A 2nd), Annawan (Class 1A 2nd) and Bloomington Central Catholic (Class 2A 3rd) highlight a field that includes four Regional winners (Aurora Christian, Minonk Fieldcrest, Quincy Notre Dame and St. Joseph-Ogden)
- New Team: Chicago Providence St. Mel will join the field after winning a Sectional title in 2018. The Knights re-join the SFHC after playing here from 2009-12
- Makin’ a move: Rockford Lutheran moves back to the Small School bracket after competing in the tournament’s Large School bracket the past two seasons.
Large School Boys Bracket
- State trophy winner: North Chicago (Class 3A 4th) will highlight a field that features Sectional champs Chicago North Lawndale and Metamora, along with Regional champions Joliet Central, Mahomet-Seymour and Rock Island.
- New Teams: Peoria High and Machesney Park Harlem will both bring young, talented squads to this bracket in 2018.
- Defending SFHC champ: Normal Community will look to retain its title against a field that also includes Wheaton Warrenville South and Zion-Benton.
Small School Girls Bracket
- Defending SFHC champ: Sectional champion Annawan returns to defend its title against a field that includes Regional winners Brimfield, Elmhurst IC Catholic, Kankakee Bishop McNamara, Rockford Lutheran and St. Joseph-Ogden.
- New Teams: Fithian Oakwood and all-stater Katelyn Young join this bracket along with Sherrard who has won a Regional title in seven of the past eight seasons.
- Makin’ a move: Regional champ Rochester will move back to this bracket after playing the last three seasons in the Large School bracket.
Large School Girls Bracket
- Class 3A State Champion: Peoria Richwoods (Class 3A State Champs) will mark the fourth consecutive year that the IHSA Class 3A girls’ state champion has played in the SFHC (Morton in 2015-16-17).
- New Teams: Bethalto Civic Memorial and Chicago Kenwood join the field after each winning five Regional titles the past six seasons. Ryle High School out of Union, KY becomes the first out-of-state team since 2013 to play in the SFHC. Located about 20 miles southwest of Cincinnati, Ryle made it to the Elite Eight of Kentucky’s one-class state tournament this season.
- The Return: Rock Island returns after a one year hiatus with two-time Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year and Ms. Basketball Brea Beal to face a field that includes Regional champs Morton and Wheaton Warrenville South.
“Over the past five years, the Holiday Classic has featured 26 teams go on to win a state trophy, including 11 state champs,” said Manager of Tournament Operations Dave Oloffson. “The experience teams receive in Bloomington-Normal over the holidays goes a long way in preparing them for the postseason.”
The State Farm Holiday Classic was one of only four holiday tournaments in Illinois to have multiple state trophy winners, joining Lombard Montini, Proviso West and Centralia holiday tournaments.
More than just basketball
The State Farm Holiday Classic will again host the annual Ron Knisley Memorial Shootout in conjunction with the 64-team varsity tournament. The Shootout features various Special Olympics teams from across the Midwest, and is scheduled to run Dec. 28-29 at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center.
Off the court, the Classic Tournament, Inc. has raised over $100,000 for the Holiday Classic Scholarship fund, and has awarded $48,000 in scholarships to graduating student-athletes who participated in the tournament. The 2018 scholarship award winners will be announced in April. In addition, the tournament has donated nearly $45,000 the past eight years to participating high school basketball programs in McLean County.
For a complete list of participating teams, go to http://theclassic.org/team-list/, and follow the tournament (sfclassic) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.