Three games in three days took its toll on most boys and girls basketball teams participating in last week's Firehouse Subs Shootout Christmas Classic at Evans High School.
In fact, Evans girls basketball coach Tim Whitfield blamed fatigue for a 37-32 loss to Harlem in the Lady Knights' third game of the Christmas Classic on Saturday.
"We had no legs," Whitfield said. "That and the fact that it's hard to beat a team three straight times."
The Evans girls had knocked off Harlem twice this season by a total of three points.
While the Lady Knights looked visibly winded in the third meeting Saturday, the Harlem girls were prepared for the back-to-back-to-back games.
Lady Bulldogs coach Shari Colley said the fatigue factor was the difference in the game.
"Conditioning is crucial because if you're tired, you're going to make bad passes and play bad defense," she said. "They played hard all the way through tonight. You can tell the girls are getting used to playing tired."
It hasn't always been that way in the Harlem girls basketball program. Colley, who took over the team a week into the season, said the girls were simply out of shape when she started coaching them.
"My first game, I had three starters asking to come out because they were too tired, and there was still three minutes left in the first quarter," she said. "We had to do a lot of running in practice. Now we don't even touch the ball for our first 45 minutes of practice. It's sprints and suicides."
Though Colley said the girls didn't exactly love the idea of heavy conditioning at first, the work paid off. Harlem won all three of its games in the Christmas Classic.
In Saturday's win over Evans, Harlem sophomore Nicole Wells scored a career-high 25 points and was named to the all-tournament team.
Harlem went undefeated in the three-day Classic, but the Greenbrier High School girls have stayed undefeated all season long.
The Lady Wolfpack won all three of its games last week to improve its record to 14-0.
Greenbrier girls basketball coach Garrett Black said the undefeated mark is the best start to a season in Lady Wolfpack history.
The county's best girls basketball team will get even better this week when senior point guard Michelle Swiec, who missed the final six games in December with an injured knee, is scheduled to return to action.
Swiec warmed up before the Christmas Classic games but remained on the bench in order to ensure a full recovery before the region schedule begins Friday, Black said.
Swiec's injury has allowed other Lady Wolfpack players a chance to fill in and earn some much-needed experience.
"I think there's been two positives to come out of this," Black said. "The other kids are stepping up and seeing how they can fill in, and Michelle is getting a fire to get back and play."
Among those to come off the bench and fill Swiec's spot were freshman Kaila Hunt and senior Janay Moore.
"It's helped me step up," said Moore, who transferred to Greenbrier from Evans this school year.
"At first, I was shy and didn't know what to do at times, but now I'm getting more experience playing with the team," she said.
Greenbrier's perfect record will be put on the line this weekend with games at Statesboro, Ga., on Friday and at home against Burke County on Saturday.
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