You can always tell when a high school basketball team has gone a few days without playing or practicing.
Shooting touch is off just a bit and normally sharp passes don't quite meet their mark. And when you throw in a holiday like Christmas when folks might eat a bit more than normal, less-than-efficient play can result.
Such was the case at Chattanooga State on Thursday for the first day of the Best of Preps tournament featuring eight teams for boys and girls.
GPS and Brainerd advanced to one semifinal among the girls on Friday while Heritage and Baylor will meet in the other.
GPS advanced with a 54-39 victory over East Hamilton while Brainerd sent Lookout Valley to the consolation bracket following a 42-30 win. Then in a couple of games that weren't as close, Heritage beat Tyner by 61-21 before Baylor knocked off Signal Mountain, 62-32.
Four quarterfinal games were played among the guys with Notre Dame and Tyner advancing before Boyd-Buchanan slipped past Baylor. Ooltewah and Ringgold were playing in Thursday's late game.
Notre Dame beat Grace by a 58-57 score before Tyner beat McCallie, 59-49. Notre Dame and Tyner will meet in one semifinal on Friday night with Boyd-Buchanan facing the Ooltewah Ringgold winner.
NOTRE DAME BOYS 58, GRACE 57: It's been a challenging season for Notre Dame coach J.P. Nerbun and his Fighting Irish as they started off by losing their first eight games. The tide is beginning to turn a bit with Thursday's win being their third straight.
It was a nip-and-tuck affair for the first half with Grace holding a 28-27 lead at the half. Will Slack scored six of his game-high 18 points at the start of the third quarter, giving the Golden Eagles a 39-31 lead with 3:33 left in that stanza.
That's when Notre Dame got hot and Grace went ice cold.
Taking advantage of a 19-3 run over the next nine minutes, the Fighting Irish turned that eight-point deficit into a lead of the same margin and Grace never led again.
Notre Dame could have put the game away in the fourth quarter, but they missed six of 14 free throw attempts that allowed Grace to stay within contention.
But with the Irish clinging onto a slim lead late, Kareem Orr sank a pair from the charity stripe with 13.2 seconds to play before Tyler Byrd added two more with four seconds remaining as Notre Dame hung on for the win.
Slack scored the final six points for the Golden Eagles in the waning seconds, but the game ended without a whistle after Slack scored on a drive at the buzzer.
"That was hard work, but I'm really pleased with how our defense played in the fourth quarter," Nerbun said following the game.
"We didn't make very many free throws, but we overcame that with good defense and it's a good way to start this tournament," he nodded.
Kealey Green scored 23 points to lead the Fighting Irish, who sank just 15 of 34 shots from the charity stripe.
Byrd was next for the Irish with 17 points while Orr followed with a dozen.
Slack's 18 was tops for the Golden Eagles while Andrew Godsey and Blake Savard were also in double figures with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
TYNER BOYS 59, McCALLIE 49: The Rams are off to a good start and won their first eight games before getting whipped by Memphis White Station on Saturday.
It appeared to be a struggle at times, but the Rams were simply too much with advantages in talent and experience as the defending-tournament champion Blue Tornado lost for the fifth time in nine games.
McCallie built a 21-15 lead midway through the second quarter, only to watch Tyner as the Rams finished the half on an 11-0 run.
The Blue Tornado came back and knotted the score at 31 midway through the third stanza, but just as quickly as McCallie got even, Tyner went on another 11-0 run.
The difference was 44-36 when the fourth quarter began. McCallie got to within seven points on three occasions in the final stanza, but could get no closer as Tyner refused to fold.
"I thought we were a little sluggish as maybe we've had too much ham and turkey in the last few days, but our defense pulled us through," said Tyner coach Gerald Harris.
"McCallie always plays us hard, but we haven't done anything since the trip to Memphis and we played like it. We took a few bad shots along the way, but we'll be okay as long as we stay hungry and humble," Harris added.
McCallie coach Dan Wadley didn't beat around the bush during his post-game comments.
"Tyner just flat outplayed us as their effort was there for 32 minutes and we just didn't match it," he began.
"I guess there will be a new champion this year, but Tyner deserved to win. I was pleased in spurts, but it was a great learning experience for us as we have a bunch of guys who have never played in an environment like this. And as you could see, we don't have a lot of outstanding outside shooters," Wadley concluded.
Alex Watkins had a double-double for the Rams with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate DeVante Jones also finished with a dozen points.
Freshman Kevin Cameron and senior Sadik Spence both had eight points for the Rams.
JaVaughn Craig was tops for McCallie with 15 points while Adrian Thomas was also in double figures with 10. Jordan Adkins finished with eight points.
Both teams finished with 30 rebounds with Watkins grabbing 10 for Tyner. Daaron Mastin had six rebounds to match his six points. C.J. Fritz, Winston Whitener and Adkins all had five rebounds for McCallie.
GPS 54, EAST HAMILTON 39: A 23-9 difference in the third quarter may have been the turning point as the Bruisers had a 23-point lead with a quarter remaining which was too much for the Lady Hurricanes to overcome.
Akia Harris was tops for GPS with 17 points while Sydney Shutters and Kara Ware both had 10 points.
Rhynne Howard was tops for East Hamilton with 12 points while Maggie Woods and Taylor Giles both scored eight.
BRAINERD 42, LOOKOUT VALLEY 30: The Lady Panthers built a 25-12 lead in the first half and never looked back as they beat the Lady Yellow Jackets by a dozen points.
Jamee Ward was the leader for Brainerd with 20 points while Jumeka Brown was also in double figures with 15.
Freshman Ashlie Beth Crownover was tops for Lookout Valley with 14 points while sophomore Elexis Foster was next with eight.
HERITAGE 61, TYNER 21: This game was never close as a 15-4 lead after one quarter increased to 30-6 by halftime.
Jada Hubbard had the hot hand for the Lady Generals as the sharp-shooting junior finished with 24 points, including four 3-pointers.
Porchia Turner was tops for Tyner with 13 points.
BAYLOR 62, SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 32: This was one close for a quarter as the score was tied at 8 when the first eight minutes ended.
Baylor pulled away in the final three quarters.
Abby Huber scored 15 points to lead the Lady Red Raiders while Skyla Looper was next with 11. Kaleigh Clemons and Mya Long were next with nine and eight points, respectively.
Aryn Sanders was tops for the Lady Eagles with 16 points while Marie Whitmire finished with eight.
GPS 11 13 23 7 -- 54
EAST HAMILTON 7 8 9 15 -- 39
GPS (54) -- Harris 17, Shutters 10, Williams 7, Ware 10, Crownover 2, Morgan 2, Spears 2, Hudson 4.
EAST HAMILTON (39) -- Pettit, Woods 8, Caudle 4, Stovall, Howard 12, Wood 3, Zachery, Black 4, Giles 8, Zen, Maston.
3-POINT GOALS: GPS 2 (Shutters 2); East Hamilton 2 (Woods 2).
LOOKOUT VALLEY 5 7 5 13 -- 30
BRAINERD 15 10 12 5 -- 42
LOOKOUT VALLEY (30) -- Crownover 14, Guthrie, Marr 5, Rogers, Mitchell, Foster 8, Evers 3, Hoge, Cabrera.
BRAINERD (42) -- Calloway 2, Brown 15, Ward 20, Price 2, Cosme, Sparks, Young, McClendon, Ashley 2, Walker 1.
3-POINT GOALS: Lookout Valley 5 (Crownover 4, Evers); Brainerd 2 (Ward 2).
HERITAGE 15 15 20 11 -- 61
TYNER 4 2 11 4 -- 21
HERITAGE (61) -- Nadeja 3, Harvey 6, Ratchford 2, Smith 6, Belk 6, Hubbard 24, Hixon 4, Thomas 6, Taylor 4.
TYNER (21) -- Turner 13, Bedford 2, Parks 4, McLemore, Conyers 2, Wilkes, Christopher, May, Smith, Montgomery, Rodgers.
3-POINT GOALS: Heritage 5 (Nadeja, Hubbard 4); Tyner none.
BAYLOR 8 17 21 16 -- 62
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 8 7 8 9 -- 32
BAYLOR (62) -- Clemons 9, Waterburg 4, Huckabay, Simpkins 6, Cornell, Huber 15, Looper 11, Smith, Long 8, Rupp 4, Blackmon, McMahan 5.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN (32) -- Peterson 1, Sanders 16, M. Whitmire 8, Althaus, B. Whitmire, Bledsoe 2, Heisser, Gravett, McGowan, Boals 5.
3-POINT GOALS: Baylor 2 (Clemons, Looper); Signal Mountain 1 (M. Whitmire).
NOTRE DAME 11 16 13 18 -- 58
GRACE 9 19 11 18 -- 57
NOTRE DAME (58) -- Green 23, Flemister 6, Davis, Ballard, Harris, Byrd 17, Orr 12.
GRACE (57) -- Slack 18, Roberts 2, Lyons 2, Savard 12, Russell, Hughes 2, Godsey 14, McQueen 4, Matheny 3, Cooke.
3-POINT GOALS; Notre Dame 1 (Byrd); Grace 5 (Savard 2, Godsey 2, Matheny).
McCALLIE 11 10 15 13 -- 49
TYNER 9 17 18 15 -- 59
McCALLIE (49) -- Fritz 4, Craig 15, Thomas 10, Whitener 5, Clark 4, Adkins 8, Lewis 2, Walker, McDonald 1.
TYNER (59) -- Watson 3, Spence 8, Mastin 6, Jones 12, Hardwick 6, Cameron 8, Strickland 4, Howard, Bonds, Wilson, Watkins 12.
3-POINT GOALS: McCallie 2 (Craig 2); Tyner 4 (Jones 3, Strickland).
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)