Entering the season it was given that boys basketball talent is down, and after the holiday tournaments it’s even harder to prove which team is the best.

Richwoods started out 7-0, but is 3-4 in its last seven games. The Knights, who seemingly boast the most talent of any team in the area, suffered losses to Limestone (51-36), Morton (49-26) and at Normal Community (68-51), which won the State Farm Classic.

As the second-seeded team at the Pekin Holiday Tournament, the Knights placed seventh after beating Washington 50-38, while Morton fell to tournament-champion Normal West and took third.

Notre Dame and Peoria High closed the book on 2017 on a high note.

A 59-40 loss to Manual prior to the tournament helped bring ND together, according to Irish coach Tom Lacher. Notre Dame was the surprise of tournament week after it reached the Plano Classic championship game. The Irish lost 44-39 Burlington Central.

“We had some guys play really well, but it was really a team effort. We’re getting contributions on a game-by-game basis from eight, nine, 10 guys that not always shows up in the box score — the hustle, rebounding, setting screens, making the extra pass.”

Some of ND's young talent was on display as freshman Noah Reynolds, sophomore Connor Dillon and junior Joe Gustafson were named to the all-tournament team.

“Connor being thrust into a role as a sophomore as a guy that’s going to play a lot of minutes and is expected to score,” said Lacher. “Noah being a freshman and having the ball in his hands a lot, that’s a big, big adjustment for a kid that was playing junior high basketball last year. Both of them accepting their roles (and) stepping up into their roles has helped.”

The Lions, who carried a five-game winning streak into the Kankakee title game, fell to the host Kays 61-57. Central sophomore Chris Williams and senior Cortez Mosley earned all-tournament honors.

Liftoff for Limestone

Limestone is hitting its stride after a 0-5 start to the season. The Rockets went 5-4 during December and had a realistic shot at winning all nine games after the Rockets lost each contest by eight points or less and two by one-possession.

Most impressively, Limestone upset Richwoods 75-61. The Rockets also beat Washington (50-36) and battled Normal West (59-51), Morton (43-38) and Metamora (37-36) among the close losses.

Senior point guard Jadon Payton has provided a spark, averaging 17.8 points per game in four games at the Pekin Tournament. Payton was efficient in doing so, making 23-of-45 (51.1 percent) of shots and 12-of-20 (60 percent) of 3-pointers. He only sat out for one-minute, 45-seconds the entire tournament.

With Seth Kizer and Payton being the only players with varsity experience entering the season (6-foot-9 senior forward Jake James has not played due to academics, according to coach Eddie Mathews), a slow start was to be expected.

Impressive small-school finishes

After starting the season 2-3, Quest won its next 10 games before falling in the Williamsville championship game.

The Gators handed Tremont its second loss, 56-48, of the season and Dee-Mack its first, 33-32, on the way to the championship game, which Williamsville won for the first time.

Illini Bluffs lost its semifinal game to West Hancock at the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament, but bounced back to beat Camp Point Central 75-48 for a third-place finish.

The Tigers (10-4) have lost to Farmington (13-1), Dee-Mack (9-1) and Indianapolis Howe (6-2), which is ranked No. 8 in Class 2A in Indiana and suffered both losses to 4A schools in that state.

For the third time in five years, Wethersfield won the Cliff Warkins Memorial Cardinal Classic in Erie. The Flying Geese (8-5) defeated Lena-Winslow 51-49 to win the title.

One-and-Bonus

Of all the hospitality rooms I visited throughout holiday tournament week, none topped the pulled pork sandwiches served at Pekin last Thursday.

Holiday links

In case you missed any of the Journal Star's boys holiday tournament coverage, here is each story.

Dec. 26

Holiday tournament roundup

Dec. 27

Nick in the AM: Cold morning, hot basketball at Pekin Holiday Tourney

Pekin holiday tournament remains rich in tradition and technologically relevant under AD Rick Kestner

Normal West junior Francis Okoro draw high-major college coach to Pekin

New camera system allows Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament to enter the live-streaming game

Pekin holiday tournament roundup

DePue might be little, but on the basketball court it is mighty

See ya next year: Princeville holiday tournament field steady as it goes

Holiday tournament roundup

Dec. 28

Morton boys make their way onto the hoops radar

Ahead by 28, Dragons hang on for opening-round win

Another day, another Big 10 college basketball coach on hand in Pekin

Pekin holiday tournament roundup

Dee-Mack basketball finds a bond with its 'glue guys'

Changes on the horizon for Williamsville tournament

Holiday tournament roundup

Dec. 29

DePue beats Galva 37-32 to win Princeville tourney

Little things add up to third place for Morton at Pekin

Lanphier last seed standing at Pekin Holiday Tournament

Pekin tournament roundup

Holiday tournament roundup

Dec. 30

No tournament title, but Quest gets a lesson in competition

Peoria-area teams have long limped away from Williamsville

Notre Dame boys lose Plano title, but still learns about themselves

Wethersfield boys win title at Erie

Holiday tournament roundup

Aaron Ferguson is a sports reporter for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3207 or aferguson@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sports_Aaron.