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Photo by David Hood

Westchester beat eventual Texas 5A champ Fort Bend Travis to take top honors in the MaxPreps Holiday Classic Invitational Division last December. The Comets will be back to defend their title against a field that features 15 20-win programs from last season.

High school basketball teams from 12 states, Australia and Canada will converge on Palm Springs, Calif., Dec. 26-30 for the annual MaxPreps Holiday Classic.

"We have put together the most competitive tournament in the 12-year history of the MaxPreps Holiday Classic," tournament co-director Wayne Merino said. "Without question, we are hosting the largest and most competitive multi-leveled high school basketball tournament in the United States this year."

Newly-opened Rancho Mirage High School will serve as the focal point for the event, which will bring 120 boys and girls teams competing in 11 different divisions to the area.

"Rancho Mirage is a beautiful new facility and the perfect setting to host a high-level basketball tournament like the MaxPreps Holiday Classic," said Rancho Mirage head boys basketball coach and tournament co-director Rob Hanmer.

Highlighting the event will be the 24-team Invitational Division, which boasts 15 programs that won 20 games or more in 2012-13. Championship contenders from Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Oregon, Missouri, Texas, Utah and Washington will join a strong contingent of in-state squads in one of the nation's toughest holiday tournament brackets.
Photo by David Hood

Etiwanda's Jordan McLaughlin is regarded as<br> one of the top point guards in the nation.


California dynasty Westchester (Los Angeles) is back to defend its title in the Invitational Division after defeating Fort Bend Travis (Richmond, Texas) featuring current Kentucky freshmen twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison in the final last December. Head coach Ed Azzam has led the Comets to six state championships and a dozen City Section crowns.

Other in-state perennial powers in the field include De La Salle (Concord), Etiwanda, Long Beach Poly and Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) – which has reached the finals in Palm Springs on four occasions (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010).

Three-time defending Alabama state champ Wenonah (Birmingham) headlines the list of out-of-state challengers. The Dragons went 34-2 last season and were ranked No. 17 nationally by MaxPreps. Senior point guard Justin Coleman – a 247Sports.com Top 100 prospect – is back for head coach Cedric Lane after pouring in over 21 points per game.

Washington 4A runner-up Jackson (Mill Creek), Arizona Division II semifinalist Sunnyslope (Phoenix), American Fork (Utah), Catalina Foothills (Tucson, Ariz.), Christian Brothers (St. Louis, Mo.), St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) and Tampa Catholic (Tampa, Fla.) are among the programs hoping to become the first non-California team to take home title.

"MaxPreps set out to build the best high school basketball tournament in the nation and all of the elements are in place to do just that," MaxPreps President Andy Beal said. "The fantastic venues and legendary weather in Palm Springs have helped us assemble a field full of great teams and we expect that to lead to great competition and big crowds."

Past standouts in the event include Xavier Johnson (Colorado), Katin Reinhardt (USC), Kendall Williams (New Mexico) and Isaiah Whitehead (Brooklyn Lincoln High School).

For more information on the event, visit MaxPrepsHolidayClassic.com or follow on Twitter @MPHolClass.

Open Division participants: Alemany (Mission Hills, Calif.), American Fork (Utah), Bellaire (Texas), Bellevue (Wash.), Beverly Hills (Calif.), Calabasas (Calif.), Capital Christian (Sacramento, Calif.), Catalina Foothills (Tucson, Ariz.), Christian Brothers (St. Louis, Mo.), Columbia Christian (Portland, Ore.), De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), Etiwanda (Calif.), Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), Issaquah (Wash.), Jackson (Mill Creek, Wash.), JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), King (Riverside, Calif.), Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), Orangewood Academy (Garden Grove, Calif.), St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio), Sunnyslope (Phoenix, Ariz.), Tampa Catholic (Tampa, Fla.), Wenonah (Birmingham, Ala.), Westchester (Los Angeles)

Other boys divisions: Anchorage Christian (Anchorage, Alaska), Brentwood School (Los Angeles), Cabrillo (Long Beach, Calif.), Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, Calif.), Cathedral City (Cathedral City, Calif.), Chaparral (Temecula, Calif.), Citrus Hill (Perris, Calif.), Colton (Calif.), Costa Mesa (Calif.), Crenshaw (Los Angeles), Dana Hills (Dana Point, Calif.), Diamond Bar (Calif.), Downey (Calif.), El Camino (Oceanside, Calif.), Folsom (Calif.), Foothill (Henderson, Nev.), Godinez (Santa Ana, Calif.), Great Oak (Temecula, Calif.), Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.), Independence (Bakersfield, Calif.), Irvington (Fremont, Calif.), La Quinta (Calif.), Lakeside (Lake Elsinore, Calif.), Leuzinger (Lawndale, Calif.), Liberty Christian (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), Madison-Ridgeland Academy (Madison, Miss.), Maranatha (Pasadena, Calif.), Palm Valley (Rancho Mirage, Calif.), Menlo (Atherton, Calif.), Miller (Fontana, Calif.), Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo, Calif.), Moreau Catholic (Hayward, Calif.), Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.), J.W. North (Riverside, Calif.), Oceanside (Calif.), Palm Desert (Calif.), Palm Springs (Calif.), Patriot (Riverside, Calif.), Palos Verdes Peninsula (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.), Perris (Calif.), Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove, Calif.), Prince Alfred (Kent Town, Australia), Providence (Burbank, Calif.), Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.), Ridgeview (Redmond, Ore.), Samuel Robertson (Maple Ridge, Canada), Santiago (Corona, Calif.), Shadow Hills (Indio, Calif.), Sierra Pacific (Hanford, Calif.), Sierra Vista (Las Vegas, Nev.), Simi Valley (Calif.), Temescal Canyon (Lake Elsinore, Calif.), Thousand Oaks (Calif.), Torrance (Calif.), Victor Valley (Victorville, Calif.), Viewpoint (Calabasas, Calif.), Villa Park (Calif.), Villanova Prep (Ojai, Calif.), Vista (Calif.), Xavier Prep (Palm Desert, Calif.)

Girls Division: Bellevue (Wash.), Dana Hills (Dana Point, Calif.), Downey (Calif.), La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.), La Quinta (Calif.), Laguna Beach (Calif.), Mount Si (Snoqualmie, Wash.), Palm Desert (Calif.), Samuel Robertson (Maple Ridge, Canada), San Dimas (Calif.), San Juan Hills (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), Shadow Hills (Indio, Calif.)

Desert Christian Boys Division: Academy for Academic Excellence (Apple Valley, Calif.), Brethren Christian (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Desert Christian Academy (Bermuda Dunes, Calif.), Excelsior Charter (Victorville, Calif.), Joshua Springs (Yucca Valley, Calif.), Loma Linda Academy (Loma Linda, Calif.), Pacifica Christian (Santa Monica, Calif.), Riverside Christian (Riverside, Calif.)

Desert Christian Girls Division: Brethren Christian (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Cathedral City (Calif.), Desert Christian (Lancaster, Calif.), Desert Mirage (Thermal, Calif.), Joshua Springs (Yucca Valley, Calif.), Loma Linda Academy (Loma Linda, Calif.), Palm Valley (Rancho Mirage, Calif.), Pacifica Christian (Santa Monica, Calif.)

Players to Watch
Kameron Chatman, Columbia Christian – No. 42 rated prospect in 247Sports.com 2014 rankings
Justin Coleman, Wenonah – No. 43 rated 2014 prospect (Committed to Alabama)
Jordan McLaughlin, Etiwanda – No. 44 rated 2014 prospect
Tra Holder, Brentwood – No. 81 rated 2014 prospect (Committed to Arizona State)
Michael Humphrey, Sunnyslope – No. 84 rated 2014 prospect
Jordan Barnett, Christian Brothers – No. 126 rated 2014 prospect (Committed to Texas)
Ray Doby, Christian Brothers – No. 182 rated 2014 prospect
Patrick McCaw, Christian Brothers – No. 190 rated 2014 prospect
D.J. Wilson, Capital Christian – No. 217 rated 2014 prospect
Jason Todd, Jackson – Reigning Washington Gatorade Player of the Year
Derick Newton, Harvard-Westlake
Marcus LoVett, Orangewood Academy – No. 58 rated prospect in 247Sports.com 2015 rankings

Past Invitational/Open Division Champions
2012 – Westchester (Los Angeles) def. Fort Bend Travis (Richmond, Texas), 70-62
2011 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) def. Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.), 76-69
2010 – Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) def. Silverado (Las Vegas, Nev.), 65-57
2009 – Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) def. Foothill (Henderson, Nev.), 78-67
2008 – Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.) def. Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo, Calif.), 85-70
2007 – Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) def. Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), 62-55
2006 – De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) def. Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), 78-57
2005 – Etiwanda (Calif.) def. Loyola (Los Angeles)
2004 – Cathedral City (Calif.) def. Elsinore (Wildomar, Calif.)
2003 – Indio (Calif.) def. Cathedral City (Calif.)
* Event was known as Desert Heat Invitational from 2003-2010.

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