Don't expect Santa Claus to deliver athletes in Jackson County any gift wins during the Christmas holiday.
Holiday tournaments begin as early as Thursday and continue through Saturday, with area teams traveling to Gainesville, Loganville, Sarasota, Fla. and Rochester, Minn. for basketball and wrestling competition designed to challenge.
Coaches nod to the extra games and matches as critical steps in preparing the players for the physical and mental demands of the postseason.
“You don’t like to just completely stay off,” said coach John Hawley, who leads the Jackson County Comprehensive High School girls’ team. “You worked so hard to get to a certain point, you have to maintain that.”
That tournament games typically are scheduled one a day during the stretch and is part of the learning process.
Region tournaments are set up in a similar way, which means basketball teams know through experience the pressures of playing in a back-to-back series.
“You have to be prepared for one game, then get back up,” Hawley said. “Mentally, then physically, these (events are) getting the kids ready for that regiment and routine.”
The Lady Panthers (5-4) will play Cambridge (0-8) at Gainesville High School’s Big Red Shoot Out at 10 a.m. Thursday.
JHS heads to Walnut Grove in Loganville
The Jefferson High School girls’ team, meanwhile, started its holiday run last week with a difficult out-of-conference match against Decatur (7-2). The Lady Dragons’ streak of six wins was broken Thursday in Decatur, where the Bulldogs beat JHS, 50-26.
Coach Jason Gibson expected the game would provide his team a “measuring stick” and that the period of assessment over the holiday would continue this week when both JHS teams take part in the Walnut Grove High School Christmas Tournament in Loganville.
The Lady Dragons (7-3) will face Greater Atlanta Christian (8-1) on Thursday in Loganville for the first game of the three-day tournament.
“This will be a real good challenge,” Gibson said. “It will give us a chance to see where we are.”
The boys’ team will play Athens Christian at 11 a.m. Thursday. The schedule thereafter will depend on the results.
Coach Bolling DuBose is working with his team on a different kind of challenge. That is, getting five members of the varsity squad in “basketball shape” after their extended state-title winning success on the football field.
“We got one of the best teams in the tournament right off the bat,” he said, referring to Athens Christian, which advanced to the Class A state final last year. “It will be a challenge. We have to slow them down, not let (the score) get into the 80s and 90s.”
Better execution of shots and “integrating the football players into what we’re doing” are priorities, DuBose said.
“Those guys have not played basketball since June,” the coach said. “They are going to be pretty horrible the first couple of weeks. I told them, ‘I can sit you on the bench but that’s not doing you or the team any good.’ At the Christmas tournament, there will be 15 guys dressed out and every one is going to play.”
EJCHS teams to split-up over holiday
East Jackson Comprehensive High School teams will split this week, with the boys traveling to Sarasota for the Smoothie King Classic tournament planned by Bradenton Christian School Dec. 27-29.
The girls’ team will play in the Lanier Holiday Tournament, matching up against AAAAA Central Gwinnett at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Both teams are coming off of a bit of a milestone.
EJCHS played Hebron Christian Academy at Philip’s Arena in Atlanta.
The game was part of a prelude to an NBA game.
Area wrestling duals follow tourneys
Whereas the basketball teams will return from the holiday break and begin region schedules that ultimately determine seeding for the region tournaments, wrestling teams must face area duals competition scheduled for Jan 4-5.
To prepare, both Jefferson High School and JCCHS lined up difficult tournaments over the holiday period.
The Dragons will leave for Rochester, Minn. after Christmas to join a major-league roster of wrestling programs in The Clash XI.
The prestigious national wrestling tournament will feature a host of teams from Minnesota and various other cities in the United States. Jefferson joins three Georgia schools invited to the competition. Pope of Marietta and Collins Hill will also be competing in the high profile event. The Dragons were selected to compete as a No. 4 seed.
The Panthers already participated in Woodward Academy’s War Eagle Classic Dec. 21-22, giving the JCCHS team some down time before the area duals.
“This was a great test for our team,” JCCHS coach Jason Powers said. “To get better as individuals we must wrestle the top teams in the state and that was what was there this past weekend.”