Last year, the McCluer North Stars won all but one game during a Class 5 state championship season.
This year, the Stars will be looking to avenge that one loss, which came to Borgia in the championship game of the St. Francis Borgia Pepsi Cola Thanksgiving Tournament.
McCluer North is the top seed for this year’s 60th annual event, which starts next Wednesday, Nov. 21.
The Stars lead an eight-team field, which is an increase of two schools from last year’s tournament.
Borgia, the defending champion, received the second seed.
Seeded third is tournament newcomer St. Louis Christian while another newcomer, Cardinal Ritter, is the fourth seed.
Leading the second half of the field is Washington at fifth, followed by Pacific at sixth, Carnahan at seventh and St. Clair at eighth.
Games start Wednesday, Nov. 21, with two contests scheduled.
McCluer North will play St. Clair to open the tournament at 6 p.m. Cardinal Ritter takes on Washington at 7:30 p.m.
On Thanksgiving, Borgia will take on Carnahan at 6 p.m. and St. Louis Christian will play Pacific at 7:30 p.m.
Friday’s action starts with consolation games at 3 p.m. (Wednesday losers) and 4:30 p.m. (Thursday losers). The semifinals are set for 6 p.m. (Wednesday winners) and 7:30 p.m. (Thursday winners).
On Saturday, the seventh-place game starts at 3 p.m. The consolation game is set for 4:30 p.m. The third-place game is set for 6 p.m. with the title game going at 7:30 p.m.
McCluer North was selected as the event’s top seed this season after winning the Class 5 state championship last campaign.
The Stars are led by veteran Head Coach Randy Reed. McCluer North won the Turkey Tournament in 2010.
“We will have a strong team again,” Reed said. “We have two excellent transfers who will make us very competitive.”
The Stars have had the past two tournament MVPs, both now playing NCAA Division I basketball in the Southeastern Conference. They are BJ Young (Arkansas) and Jordon Granger (Auburn).
Further information about the Stars was not available as of press time.
Second-seeded Borgia returns three players who started at various times during the season.
Seniors Casey Kuchem, Jordan Miller and John Baumstark started at different times during the season. Kuchem is a forward while Miller and Baumstark are guards.
Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier is two wins away from 600 for his career and could achieve that milestone during the tournament.
Neier states that the starting lineup will be supplemented by returning varsity players and players who have been promoted from last year’s 21-8 junior varsity squad.
The Knights likely will use many players in a rotation format this season with the tallest players ranging in the 6-5 to 6-3 range.
“The group has a chance to be a very strong team,” Neier said.
St. Louis Christian is a new school to the tournament and the first MSHSAA affiliate school to enter the event.
Christian played in the Owensville Tournament last year, winning the consolation title over Linn.
It was reported by Christian officials that the team has a lot of height with five players ranging from 6-5 to 6-11.
The team has three seniors, two who have received NCAA Division I offers. Four sophomores are expected to see significant playing time this season.
“I feel like we are one of the more talented teams in the area,” Christian Head Coach Casey Autenriet stated.
Cardinal Ritter, another new team to the tournament, has a long tradition of winning basketball under Head Coach Marvin Neals.
While the Lions won’t have the same style as last season after graduating Cameron Biedscheid (averaged over 31 points per game), but do have seven returners from last year’s 21-6 team. Two were starters.
The Lions won a district championship last year, but fell to Lutheran North in the sectional round.
“We will be small, but very competitive,” Neals stated. “We will be a pressing and fastbreak style team this year.”
Chip Sodemann’s Washington Blue Jays were awarded the fifth seed after balloting.
Washington went 10-15 last season and returns the bulk of its lineup. Four starters are back from that team. Sodemann said there are five key returning players in seniors Luke Schroepfer, Jared Walde and Luke Hasenjaeger and juniors Ronnie Suggs and Brad Carpenter.
Additional depth will come from last year’s reserves and junior varsity team.
“I think we will be competitive and look forward to a fun year with this group.” Sodemann said.
Seeded sixth was the defending Four Rivers Conference champion Pacific, which went 17-9.
The Indians have been picked to repeat as FRC champions in this year’s preseason coaches poll.
Head Coach John VanLeer reports that six of the nine losses came to teams which won over 20 games last season.
Three starters, senior Zeth Boyer, junior Jeffrey Hinkle and sophomore Cullen VanLeer, return this season.
VanLeer led the team with 16.8 points and 5.3 assists per game last season.
“We return 50 percent of our offense and should be much better defensively,” VanLeer said. “We should be capable of scoring in many different ways.”
Carnahan returns to the tournament this season after a one-year hiatus. Carnahan placed eighth in the 2010 tournament.
Head Coach Jonathan Griffin stated that Carnahan should be better than its seed position.
Carnahan was 14-8 last year and went 7-2 in the Public High League. Carnahan lost in the district championship game to Cardinal Ritter after beating Maplewood-Richmond Heights in the semifinals.
Six players return from last year’s team. Griffin feels that Steven Baynham and Trevor Roberts will be the team’s key offensive players.
“In comparison to last year’s team, I believe this team has a chance to be deeper and more talented,” Griffin said. “The reason is because we should have a rotation of players who can come in and have immediate impact off the bench. I believe because I have a year under my belt, I can prepare these players even better than I did last year. I believe my team can go all the way to state. The state of mind is we must work hard and intelligent every day when we get an opportunity.”
The eighth seed is St. Clair, which returns to the event this season.
Casey Korn is the new head coach of the Bulldogs and has four returning starters and eight seniors from last year’s 9-19 team.
St. Clair lost two key players due to injury during the season and has both back healthy this year.
Neyko Dominguez (14.8 points per game) and Adam Brott (9.9 ppg) were the top scorers last year. Brandon York (7.0 ppg) was one of the players who was injured and he only played five games before getting knocked out for the rest of the season.
“I think we have a great chance to be competitive this season with eight returning seniors, four returning starters and two all-conference players returning,” Korn said.