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Prep Boys Basketball Insider: Mooseheart hunkering down for holidays

Mooseheart’s Mangisto Deng (24) drives the lane Dec. 17 during the Ramblers’ 96-53 victory over Harvest Christian in Mooseheart.
Mooseheart’s Mangisto Deng (24) drives the lane Dec. 17 during the Ramblers’ 96-53 victory over Harvest Christian in Mooseheart.

Mooseheart's traditional extended break over the holidays means Mooseheart will have had a full three weeks between games by the time the Ramblers next take the court.

Mooseheart improved to 6-2 after throttling Harvest Christian, 96-53, on Tuesday, and won't play again until a Jan. 7 meeting at the United Center against Gage Park. 

"It's always a tough time of year but it's way more important for our kids to get back to be with their families," Ramblers coach Ron Ahrens said. "I will never say anything against that.

"And you know what? I'm kind of in the mindset now that everyone else is still practicing, sometimes they put five games in during the holidays or whatever, and we're rested. I tell you what, our kids come back a little bit more rejuvenated."

Ahrens said the unique venue for the Ramblers' first game of 2014 should help guard against his players becoming too rusty over the break.

"What a good motivation to work out a little bit over break," Ahrens said. "You're going to play at the United Center, you don't want to embarrass yourself, so I think there will be some kids that are going to come back in pretty good shape."

Mooseheart has had a pair of games wiped off its early-season schedule, including a weather cancellation on Dec. 14, when the Ramblers were supposed to play in Indianapolis.

Ahrens said the Ramblers might try and add a game or two to their schedule to compensate for the lost matchups.

He's a clever one

St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin credited junior Jack Callaghan's versatility, and said the forward's smarts allow him to be a multi-dimensional threat.

"Jack is one of the smartest, if not the most intelligent players, basketball IQ-wise, that we've ever had here," Poulin said after the 6-foot-3 Callaghan scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in Friday's win over Batavia. "He does a great job of positioning himself to get rebounds, he can shoot the 3, he can find open people. He's very good at distributing the ball. I think Jack's best basketball is ahead of him."

Callaghan also gives North another quality perimeter shooting option to complement guards Alec Goetz and Jake Ludwig.

"Jack is upset at himself because he hasn't been shooting it like he wants to," Poulin said. "He can shoot the ball as well as anyone we have. I'm waiting for that day where Alec, Jake and Jack are all on. That'll be a real nice day for us."

Ready to roll

Batavia entered the Elgin Holiday Tournament in 2012 badly in need of some wins, as is the case again this season for the Bulldogs, who lost six games in a row heading into tournament play to fall to 2-7.

Last year's Batavia team shook off its early-season doldrums by taking third in the Elgin tournament. The Bulldogs were set to begin their 2013 Elgin run Monday with a late tip against FW Parker.

"We play a lot of games in a short amount of time," Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. "I think we have the capability of [getting on a roll].

"We've got great leadership with our seniors. We've got juniors who play like seniors at times. We do have the makeup to go on a roll."


Mangisto Deng, Mooseheart, Sr., G

What he did: Deng made Mooseheart's last game of 2013 count, tallying 32 points as the Ramblers crushed Harvest Christian on Tuesday, 96-53.

St. Charles North's defense

What the North Stars did: North held Batavia to five first-half field goals in Friday's 70-49 win over the Bulldogs. Batavia was 5 for 20 from the floor in the half.


Once Kaneland gets rolling, the Knights don't like to let up.

Kaneland outscored Hinckley-Big Rock by a whopping 31-2 margin in the third quarter of Tuesday's 63-38 nonconference win at Hinckley-Big Rock.


Whether any local teams can win a Christmas hoops tournament.

Among the leading contenders: Burlington Central or Kaneland (at Plano), Geneva (at East Aurora) and St. Francis (at Glenbard West).


Larkin has been a source of frustration for, well, the entire rest of the conference so far this season.

The defending UEC River champs have let several teams hang tight late (including St. Charles North, Batavia and, most recently, Geneva), but the Royals have found a way to pull through in crunch time on each occasion.

That's the mark of a well-coached team with veteran leadership. 

On the bright side, Larkin hasn't been so dominant to make area teams feel like they don't have a legit shot at them the next time around. At some point, however, someone's got to close the deal, or this conference race could turn into a runaway.

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