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Dixon tournament draws tough field of teams

Step up in competition

DIxon's Kacie Dillow makes a pass around Sterling's Racquel Romano earlier this season. Both teams will play in the Dixon tournament starting next Thursday.
DIxon's Kacie Dillow makes a pass around Sterling's Racquel Romano earlier this season. Both teams will play in the Dixon tournament starting next Thursday.

A week ago, the Oregon Hawks were one bucket away from going to the championship game of the Polo girls tournament. 

Riley Walters and the Prophetstown Prophets kept them from that goal. 

Earlier in the season, the Hawks played in the championship game of their own tournament around Thanksgiving. That was after surviving the Prophets by a point in a semifinal.

Up in Pearl City last week, the Eastland Cougars were making their own noise. Eastland rolled through pool play before meeting up with defending Class 1A state champion Aquin in the tournament final. 

The Cougars fell, but not without giving the Bulldogs a strong fight.

Needless to stay, Oregon has proved to be one of the top 2A teams in the Sauk Valley in 2012-13. Eastland is in a similar position in 1A. 

So at first glance, the brackets for next week's Dixon tournament would seem skewed, considering that the Hawks and Cougars will meet in a first-round game at 6 p.m. next Thursday.

A second glance will tell why two strong clubs are meeting right off the bat. The Dixon tournament is chock full of high caliber teams from all four classes in Illinois.

"It's a definite step up in competition," Oregon's Kristy Eckardt said after beating Dixon on Monday. "We want to go up against teams that are bigger than us and run different styles."

That's exactly the sort of talk that Dixon athletic director Jon Empen and girls basketball coach Luke Ravlin want associated with the tournament. 

The've succeeded this season. Joining Oregon and Eastland is a field that includes Aquin (11-2), Rockford Lutheran (7-2), United Township (7-5), Rochelle and Boylan (4-5).

"It was tough to draw up the brackets," Ravlin said. "We wanted this tournament to be something that we could be proud about. A chance for people to come and watch outstanding girls basketball all day long. I think we've really done that." 

The Duchesses didn't do themselves any favors by drawing Boylan in the opening round. The private school has an enrollment of 1,151, with a multiplier bumping it up to 1,899.15. 

The Titans are 4-6, but started the season 0-5 at a tournament in Schaumburg in which they lost to teams like Montini, Wheaton-Warrenville South and Schaumburg. They are 4-1 since that event. 

The Titans lost a strong senior class, returning just one starter in 6-foot senior Gwen Casper. 

That size will be a tough task for Dixon (4-8) to contend with. 

"We're just trying to get better everyday," Ravlin said. "The tournament is a chance for the girls to play against some of the best in the state and see what it takes to get to that level. We get to see that a lot during the season against teams in the NIB-12 West, also." 

The other local team at the Dixon tournament will be the Sterling Golden Warriors, who will be fresh off hosting the Sterling Shootout. 

The Warriors will open with Pekin at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. The Dragons are 4-7 this season. 

A win there could match Sterling (6-6) with a solid team from Rochelle and set up a rematch of the Class 3A Rochelle regional final rematch. The Warriors beat the Hubs 53-39 on Feb. 17.

The quarterfinal round could feature another exciting matchup between Lutheran and Aquin. The Crusaders have been the class of the Big Northern West the last two season. Aquin, coming off a state championship, is led by Arizona State-bound Sophie Brunner. 

Want more?

• Check out capsules for all eight first round games at the Dixon tournament on B4. 

• More holiday hoops? We have schedules for next week's games on B3. 

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