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Wednesday, Feb. 23

A Holiday Classic Elite Eight gears up for the weekend

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[FEB. 23, 2005]  BLOOMINGTON -- The IHSA March Madness kicks off on Friday in the form of the Class A basketball tournament for girls, but there will definitely be a feel of December in the air. Four of the Elite Eight teams playing this weekend at Redbird Arena will return to Bloomington-Normal Dec. 27-30 as participants in the 27th State Farm Holiday Classic.

The Class A bracket for girls remains the most competitive field in the four-field, 64-team 2005 State Farm Holiday Classic and will feature Chicago John Hope, Kankakee Bishop McNamara, Rock Island Alleman and Sterling Newman Central Catholic. All four of these teams will be playing this weekend for the state championship at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena, which is also one of the venues used by the State Farm Holiday Classic.

Overall, the Class A girls' field in the 2005 Holiday Classic will feature 10 teams that won regional championships this year, with six of them advancing to the Sweet 16. Sectional champions Bloomington Central Catholic and St. Joe-Ogden will join other state-ranked powers Rochester, Olney East Richland and Camp Point Central. The rest of the 2005 field features Normal U-High, Tolono Unity, CPCI, Stanford Olympia, Taylor Ridge Rockridge, Orion and Monmouth/Roseville.

"Over the years we have been fortunate to field some of the best girls basketball teams in Illinois," said Dave Oloffson, vice president of the Holiday Classic. "But this could truly be billed as a December state tournament with the incredible number of elite teams playing from across the state."

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Also featured in the 2005 tournament will be nine underclassmen just selected to one of the 2004-05 Associated Press All-State teams. Those players are Brittany Johnson, of Olney East Richland; Precious Gaddis, Chicago John Hope; Jocelyn Mellen, Sterling Newman; Jennifer Juergens, Kankakee Bishop McNamara; Latear Eason, Chicago John Hope; Ashley Runck, St. Joe-Ogden; Aubrey Parsons, Sterling Newman; Heidi McKean, CPCI; and Taylor Bennett, Kankakee Bishop McNamara.

The entire 64-team field of the State Farm Holiday Classic will be announced within the next month. For more tournament information, visit www.theclassic.org.

[State Farm Holiday Classic news release]

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