Proviso West's 32-team tourney set

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Proviso West's 32-team tourney set

Joe Spagnolo always has been an innovator, a visionary and a wheeler-dealer. And the longtime director of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament outdid himself this year.
Spagnolo came up with a couple of new innovations for the 52nd annual event, which will be conducted on Dec. 22, 26-29 and 31 at Proviso West in Hillside. He has expanded the tournament from 16 to 32 teams, and the championship game will be played on New Year's Eve afternoon.
It is advertised as the largest high school holiday event in the nation conducted under one roof.
It isn't the first time a holiday tournament in the Chicago area has been concluded on New Year's Eve afternoon. Spagnolo recalls when the old All-Chicago tournament conducted its final game at that time and he thought it was a good idea to copy.
In the early 1970s, the all-city event was held at Illinois-Chicago's old gym on Roosevelt Road. In 1973, Leo and Tony Parker, father of NBA star Tony Parker, won the event. Crane dominated in the 1980s with Cory Blackwell, Ken Colliers Norman, Anthony Emanuel and Joe Daughrity.
The afternoon final had enormous appeal for high school basketball fans who could watch some of the city's best players and teams and then have plenty of time to attend New Year's Eve parties.
"I've been working on this project in the back of my mind since the summer of 2011," Spagnolo said. "I brought in logistical people to see if it would all work. It was one of the best-kept secrets until we announced it."
There were many questions to be answered. Can we install a college floor? Do we have enough electricity? How can we move people from gym to gym? Will fans accept a 32-team concept?
It will be the biggest event of its kind in the country...six days, 61 games, as many as 16 games in one day, 132 officials. And every game will be televised on High School Cube.
In scheduling the championship game on Monday afternoon, New Year's Eve, Spagnolo was influenced by the old All-Chicago tournament at UIC.
"I thought it was great, a day where people didn't do a lot of things. They could see the games and still celebrate," he said. "We're committed to not playing on Sunday. So I like how the calendar fell with the semifinals on Saturday and the finals on Monday. It was a no-brainer. We'll be the only game in town. All the other tournaments will end on Saturday night."
In addition, Proviso West will conduct games in two venues at the same time--the 3,000-seat gym and the adjacent field house. Proviso West will bring in new seating for about 1,200 people, a wooden floor, scoreboard and backboards to transform the field house from a track facility into a basketball-friendly arena.
"I think people will like the idea of coming and going back and forth all day to watch games," Spagnolo said. "We're just trying to perfect our 32-team plan. We will have more fan-friendly stuff, more contests, more marketing things and fan-fest activities in the field house. It will be a circus-like atmosphere."
The 32-team field is headed by 13 schools that have participated in the event for 10 or more years--Proviso East, Proviso West, St. Joseph, New Trier, Westinghouse, Homewood-Flossmoor, Morton, Benet, Fenwick, Glenbrook North, Hillcrest, Von Steuben and Morgan Park.
There also are 13 first-time entries--Urban Prep, Ellison, Crespi from Encino, California, Bogan, Lincoln Park, Maine South, Nazareth, Oswego, Rockford Auburn, St. Charles East, Stevenson, Thornton Fractional South and Wheaton Academy.
Other teams are Hinsdale Central, Foreman, Downers Grove South, Brooks, Dunbar and Glenbard East.
Tickets for the 2012 tournament currently are on sale. On-line sales will run through Dec. 14. Season ticket booklets, good for all 61 games, can be purchased for 75 on-line at www.pwhoops.com.
"We're going for greatness," said Spagnolo, who has been affiliated with the tournament since 1978 and has served as tournament director since 1981. "We've been working on it for a long time. It will give more teams an opportunity to play here. I got tired of saying 'no' to new teams that wanted to play here."
In expanding the event from 16 to 32 teams, Spagnolo said he didn't want to negatively affect other holiday tournaments.
"Our original plan was to get as many good programs as we could," he said. "We didn't take more than two teams from any existing tournament. A lot of emerging schools wanted to get into our holiday tournament. We had our eye on some of them."
For example, Proviso West had never invited an out-of-state school--until this year. But Crespi contacted Spagnolo. The Encino school had qualified for the Final Four in the California tournament in four of the last five years and boasts one of the most widely recruited point guards in the West, London Perrantes, who is committed to Virginia. Spagnolo jumped at the chance to add Crespi to the 32-team lineup.
Ellison is a small charter school in Chicago, the first charter school to be invited to participate in the tournament.
"I like the blend of teams. It gives us a little bit of everything," Spagnolo said. "Our goal wasn't to bring in the top 32 teams in the state, just 32 good programs that have interesting stories."
Spagnolo didn't get everything he wanted. He talked to Farragut but coach William "Wolf" Nelson doesn't like to play at Christmas. He talked to St. Rita but the Mustangs are going out-of-state at Christmas. He also lost one school, St. Patrick, which opted out of its contract to compete at Hinsdale South.
"Our mission has always been to promote high school basketball," Spagnolo said. "Our motto is: 'Proviso West is where basketball is best.' we want everyone to enjoy what we have, from paying customers to referees to participants. We think it is a special event and we want more people to get involved in it."
First-round pairings on Saturday, Dec. 22, will pit Oswego vs. Lincoln Park, New Trier vs. Nazareth, Westinghouse vs. Downers Grove South, Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Ellison, Benet vs. Urban Park, Morton vs. Dunbar, Proviso East vs. Thornton Fractional South and Rockford Auburn vs. Foreman.
First-round pairings on Wednesday, Dec. 26, will pit St. Joseph vs. Brooks, Crespi vs. Bogan, Morgan Park vs. Wheaton Academy, Proviso West vs. Fenwick, St. Charles East vs. Von Steuben, Stevenson vs. Hinsdale Central, Glenbard East vs. Glenbard North and Hillcrest vs. Maine South.

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The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 26 of 28 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.