The next Jacobs Holiday Tournament is almost a year away, but it already looks like the host Golden Eagles will have a hard time extending their streak of three straight tourney championships.
That's because Jacobs coach Jim Hinkle announced earlier this week that the tournament will have a new addition next season when Zion-Benton joins the 16-team field.
The Z-B's add some instant creditiblity to the tournament. Zion-Benton ended Elgin's postseason run in the DeKalb Super-Sectional a year ago and went on to finish the year 33-4, losing to Richards in the Class 4A state championship game.
The Z-B's are 9-4 at the moment and remain a major force in the Chicago area with most of last year's players back this season. Ohio State-bound junior Lenzelle Smith is Zion-Benton's top player and will be reason enough to make it out to Algonquin for the tournament at least once come December.
Hinkle said Zion-Benton will replace Marion Central, which indicated that it won't be returning next year. The Z-B's competed in the Proviso West Tournament this year, losing their last two games against the host Panthers and Whitney Young.
In my humble opinion, this step up in competition is a good sign for the tournament. Hinkle and the rest of the Jacobs staff always run a top-notch event, but the competition level isn't always that high. Perhaps Zion-Benton's inclusion will help attract other formidable programs from around the region.
Half of the 12 teams in the Fox Valley Conference competed at the Jacobs Tournament this year, which I always find silly. Holiday tournaments are the perfect time to go play teams you aren't already scheduled to play during the course of the regular season. Perhaps that penchant for staying close to home is part of the reason why the FVC never sees much success in the state basketball playoffs.
Regardless, the recent additions of Bartlett and St. Charles North have also helped raise the tournament's stature in this area. Now with Zion-Benton in the mix, the Jacobs Tournament seems on the right track toward becoming one of the top holiday events in Northern Illinois.