Naples Holiday Shootout girls basketball: Chicago-Whitney Young set on defending its title

Corry Irvin never had her team participate in the same tournament twice during her 12 years as a head coach at Chicago-Whitney Young. That all changed when the Dolphins stepped on the court to defend their Naples Holiday Shootout title on Wednesday at Barron Collier.

Teams travel from all ends of the nation to Naples for the Holiday Shootout, not only for the city's cozy winter weather, but for the level of competition the tournament brings.

"When you think about Florida, you think about vacation," Whitney Young senior guard Linnae Harper said. "But, we are here for business. Hopefully we will win the championship and then have a little vacation."

This year's Holiday Shootout field includes some of MaxPreps' and USA Today's top 25 teams in the nation along with teams which won their state championship. That's why Irvin decided to bring her team back.

"We expect to get something from (the tournament) from an experience standpoint to help us with our state tournament," Irvin said. "Anytime we can come and play in a tournament of this caliber against some of the best teams in the country it gives (the players) more exposure and it helps them in the long run."

The Dolphins, USA Today's No. 5 ranked team, are accustomed to national exposure. Last year, the team went undefeated and won its state title.

One goal for the Dolphins (13-0) during this year's Holiday Shootout is to make sure people know they are not riding off last year's success.

"We have a lot of people doubting us," senior guard Sydney Snower said. "We are just trying to prove that we are just as good as last year."

Snower, a Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit, was a role player on last year's Holiday Shootout championship team, but this year she is a starting guard and a co-captain.

Last year, senior standouts Janee Thompson and Alexis Lloyd played a large role in the Dolphins success during the Holiday Shootout. Thompson is currently at Kentucky, and Lloyd is at Virginia Tech.

This season Harper, who is ESPN's No. 5 prospect in the nation, is following in her ex-teammate's footsteps. Harper also is a Kentucky recruit, and she had no issues when she was asked to step up in the first round of the Holiday Shootout. She scored 24 points in the Dolphins' 49-38 win over Tucker (Ga.)

"Linnae definitely has to carry us," Irvin said. "I don't mean she has to score all the points, but she's the type of player that does everything. I think that's why she is one of the best players in the country."

Irvin said the team had two goals last year to win the state title and to win the Naples Holiday Shootout.

Irvin is sending a message to the team and to the rest of the tournament field; she will be expecting the same results again.

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