Times Sports Editor
The holiday season is a time of hustle and bustle for most people. Everyone knows the panic of looking for that last hard-to-find gift under the Christmas deadline pressure.
Last weekend's snow forced a postponement of the Northview boys' basketball game against Avon on Saturday and then reached out its' icy finger to do the same to the girls' game against Greencastle.
Those delays mean that the boys will have 12 days between games while the girls have a jaw dropping 19 days with no game action.
The girls' team had some struggles during the season, going 4-5 before the break. But coming off a win over Edgewood, coach Chad Smith is one that wishes Santa would have brought the squad a friendlier schedule.
"At this point I wish we played a little before the break because I feel that we are right there on the cusp of playing to our potential and I don't want to lose that momentum."
I also feel that we are dealing with kids," said Smith. "Many people sometimes forget that we are dealing with kids and not professional athletes. They need a break from school and basketball."
For the Northview boys, 4-1 heading into a gap before taking part in the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic, coach Mitch Lancaster has his team geared towards improving in practice before possibly playing four games in four days during the tourney.
"We try to take advantage and work on conditioning, getting healthy and try to improve on some areas that need improvement," noted Lancaster. "Twelve days is a little too long of a layoff but the IHSAA calendar works out this way every four years or so."
Just down State Road 59 in Clay City, boys' coach Grant McVay isn't a fan of his team's 13-day break, in fact, wishing he could add some of this practice time to the pre-season.
"Having an extended break between games is really a catch-22. Any time you go more than a week between games, the routine of playing regularly becomes disrupted," said McVay. "It takes a good, mentally tough team to come back strong from a break. On the other hand, the IHSAA has really hurt the quality of early season basketball by only giving teams two weeks of practice before games start."
McVay, in his eighth-year at the Eels' helm, will get his team some more practice time hoping to build on Clay City's 4-2 mark when they tipoff post-break at the South Putnam Tourney on Dec. 28.
"This is a much needed time for us to get back to teaching fundamentals, focus on execution, and really try to benefit from the feedback of our early season games without having to focus on game-planning for our next opponent until after Christmas," commented McVay.
Lancaster agrees that one potential benefit of this extra practice time is seeing the Knights improve on the basics.
"We try to improve areas that need work. Fundamentals, areas of needed offensive improvement, areas of needed defensive improvement, and conditioning," said Lancaster, who has 244 career wins under his belt.
Smith's Lady Knights saw some improvement in the second half of their most recent game, a win against Edgewood that helped take the sting out of a tough loss to Terre Haute North.
This break could serve the team well in smoothing out some rough edges in the execution area. That extra practice could come in handy during the second half of the schedule with some tough opponents according to Smith.
"At this point we are just trying to become better basketball players and work on cutting down on our turnovers," assessed Smith. "We have a tough game coming back from break with Owen Valley and we will concentrate on beating their press and matching their quickness."
After getting off to the best start in several years, Clay City's girls have a 15-day gap before they compete in a South Putnam Tourney of their own on Dec. 29. The 7-3 Eels will also work on resting their bumps and bruises while preparing for the second half schedule, which is loaded with tough teams.
The Eels won't see many schools of their own 1A classification while prepping for the postseason.
The post-holiday slate sees games against 3A No. 8 Owen Valley along with 7-2 Cloverdale, 2A bully Bloomfield (9-2) and big-school match-ups with rival Northview and 3A Sullivan.
Though he is pleased with the start his team has gotten off to, McVay believes there is still much work to do before his team reaches a level where they can exert their will on other teams.
"Maturity has been the number one issue for us coming into and throughout the early part of the season. If we are going to be contenders, not pretenders, then we need to become a lot tougher mentally and do so in a hurry," commented McVay.
"I am happy for our kids that we've been able to win a few games before Christmas, but I hope that they are far from satisfied," said McVay. "For us to accomplish any of the goals we are capable of meeting, we need to become a lot better at concentrating and executing over the course of thirty-two minutes."
At Northview, Lancaster echoed McVay's thoughts on becoming stronger between the ears and believes that the Knigthts are on the right road before facing Marshall, Ill. at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 26.
"I have been very pleased with this group so far. We have played a very competitive schedule and this team has proven to be very competitive and a very tough minded team," mentioned Lancaster, now in his fifth-year with the Knights. "They get along, they enjoy playing and the parent group for this team has been outstanding. We need to work on improving our transition game, free throw shooting and rotation/communication on defense."
Both county boys' teams have had success based on their balanced efforts. The Eels have seen a number of double-digit scorers on a given night and McVay has pointed towards different players that stood out during each of his team's games.
"Focusing on some positives, at South Vermillion, I really thought Braxton Griffith was a huge difference maker for us," noticed McVay. "Jordan Defore played brilliantly against Union; Kyler Rhodes stood out against Bloomfield; Will Kennedy was a joy to watch against Eminence; Orry Heffner and Kevin Cook really helped us win at Cloverdale, while Logan Higgins played well at Vincennes Rivet. Overall, these young men are really a good group to work with."