When the high school basketball season ends in March, last week's Thanksgiving tournaments will be little more than an afterthought.
However, it never hurts to get off to a good start, and three area teams are hoping to use their early-season success as a springboard to bigger and better things down the road.
The Storm probably had the most impressive showing out of the bunch when it won four times to claim the Fenton Tournament championship.
Granted, the event at Fenton wasn't exactly loaded with perennial powerhouses, but South Elgin did have to beat some talented individuals, namely Notre Dame-bound Jack Cooley of Glenbrook South and Northwestern-bound Drew Crawford of Naperville Central.
Cooley and Crawford both had good games against the Storm, but their teammates were unable to offer much help against South Elgin's tough-as-nails defense. The Storm allowed more than 50 points only once in the four games.
Making the championship that much more noteworthy is that South Elgin had to win without two of its top players. Senior starter Kyle Osborne broke his left tibia in the season opener and is expected to miss eight weeks. Meanwhile, senior Josh Smith was in uniform but didn't play a minute at the tournament. He's expected to be in the rotation Friday when the Storm travels to play at Lake Park.
Those absences didn't seem to matter, reinforcing the team-first mantra South Elgin coach Chaz Taft and his players keep bringing up in postgame interviews.
Junior guard Tommy Childs splashed on the scene at Fenton, leading the team in scoring in all four games while tallying 18.8 points per game. However, you get the sense that there are nine other guys on the team capable of shouldering such a heavy load and that each player is content filling his role.
The Storm isn't terribly flashy, but that's by design. Don't expect Taft to let his players rest on their laurels, and don't be surprised to see continued success from this squad as the year goes on.
"It's nice to have a deep bench and it's nice to have guys that play hard all the time," Taft. "It's the South Elgin way, and that's all I can say.
"Our guys believe in the defensive system and the offensive system, and that's why we play the way we do."
In Dundee-Crown's case, few can argue against the contention that the Chargers were the most talented team at the Sycamore Tournament. However, talent doesn't always translate into success, especially early in the season.
Talent won out in this case, though, as senior guard Jeff Beck and senior forward Marcus Henry rarely left the floor while leading an experienced squad to three straight wins as it claimed its first Sycamore title since 2005.
"Jeff and Marcus play so hard, and they're obviously two of our better players," D-C coach Lance Huber said. "If you get two guys to do that, normally everyone else comes along."
Huber said he was especially pleased to see different role players step up every game.
He singled out senior Aaron Reams' play in the opener against Burlington Central, pointed to Rob Stupar's 10 3-pointers in the second game against Kaneland and lauded the efforts of senior Andrew Schuessler in the championship game against Huntley.
Like South Elgin, the Chargers displayed plenty of depth. Don't be surprised to see D-C maintain its high level of play and emerge as the main challenger to Jacobs' supremacy in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division.
Speaking of surprises, Westminster Christian's win against a veteran St. Edward squad in the Westminster Christian Tournament championship game certainly caught my attention.
The Warriors lost virtually all the key players who led the program to its first regional title last year. Despite that, coach Bruce Firchau's young squad is off to a 4-0 start, and perhaps the expected dropoff won't be too severe in this rebuilding year.
Elsewhere, Bartlett senior guard Marc Little was nearly unstoppable, scoring 34.7 points per game at the Waukegan Tournament. However, the Hawks could only muster a 1-2 record in the four-team field, with losses coming against Warren and Waukegan, which are both considered among the top teams in the Chicago suburbs.
St. Charles East and St. Charles North also faced tough challenges last week at the St. Charles East Tournament, which featured eight highly competitive squads.
The North Stars came away 2-2 after notching wins against East Aurora and Proviso West. The Saints weren't so fortunate, going 0-4 and finishing last. Like every area team, East and North just hope to build on the early-season experience.
"We need to work on going out and learning every game," East coach Brian Clodi said. "The teams we're playing in this tournament are the kind of teams you'll have to get through in a regional, but we need to get better every game."