Along with friends, family and eggnog, Christmas is a time for the State Farm Holiday Classic.
The Illinois Valley Central basketball team started their first season in the large school bracket on the wrong foot.
IVC lost to North Chicago, 63-49.
"We played really well," coach Joe Mintus said. "They are probably the best team that we saw all year. We fought really hard all game.
"They have three really good players and really used their athleticism on us. We gave them some second chances. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team."
The game started close, with IVC cutting the lead to 3-2 early on a Caleb Magee two-pointer.
North Chicago had trouble putting up an early lead when IVC cut their slim advantage to 8-7 on a jumpshot from AJ Johnson.
Near the end of the quarter, the Warthogs began sinking consistent shots to take a 16-7 lead after the opening eight minutes.
IVC's offensive strategy in the second quarter, and throughout the game, was to find open shots and lanes with passes around the perimeter until an opening occurred.
Despite the smart offensive strategy, there was little the Ghosts could do to counter the defensive and offensive prowess of North Chicago.
Whether it was in the post or on the perimeter, the Warthogs began to score almost at will over the Ghost defense.
In the full court game, the Ghosts had trouble moving the ball past half court at times due to the intense pressure on the press from North Chicago.
At halftime, IVC trailed 33-16.
The second half saw a different IVC offense take the court.
Johnson, who led the team with 19 points, found plenty of opportunities to pop shots over Warthog defenders.
From the perimeter, Magee's shooting skills became apparent as he knocked down three-pointers and long two-point shots.
Despite the great play with the ball, the Ghost defense still had no remedy for North Chicago's offense, which matched IVC's shot for shot.
The Ghosts trailed, 51-34, heading into the final quarter.
In the last eight minutes, IVC outscored the Warthogs, but it was nowhere near enough to mount a comeback.
The team lost twice Thursday, starting with a 65-62 overtime loss to Mahomet-Seymour.
"We played really well for three quarters," Mintus said. "We had a 10 point lead going into the fourth quarter and then we just got too content.
"It was almost like we were playing not to lose the game rather than playing to win. They got some shots to fall and we didn't, and we let a game we should have won slip away. That one hurt to lose."
Page 2 of 2 - The game was close throughout the opening quarter, with both sides trying to figure out the other side's defensive and offensive strategy.
After the quarter, Mahomet-Seymour held a 10-8 lead.
The Ghost offense found its footing in the second quarter and created some separation from Mahomet-Seymour thanks to Reilly Owens popping shots over defenders.
Owens led the team with 18 points for the game.
At halftime, IVC led 27-20.
In the third quarter, the Ghost defense held Mahomet-Seymour to four points while IVC's offense put up 11 points.
During the final eight minutes, the Ghosts fell apart and allowed Mahomet-Seymour to score 22 points and force overtime.
In the overtime, both offenses went on a scoring binge in an all out effort to overcome the other side.
Mahomet-Seymour, however, proved a little bit more accurate and left with the win.
The team then lost to Grayslake Central, 57-51.
"They are pretty athletic," Mintus said. "We had tired legs and just could not close that one out. That has been a problem for us and something we need to work on."
The first half remained close throughout, with the teams trading points and leads.
The Ghost offense was spurred on by a great shooting performance from Johnson, who led the team with 26 points.
At halftime, Grayslake Central held a 28-23 lead.
In the third quarter, the Ghost offense exploded for 18 points to regain the lead.
Owens helped the scoring by sending in tough shots of his own as well as setting teammates up with open looks at the hoop.
After three quarters, IVC led, 41-38.
During the final eight minutes, the Ghost defense lagged and Grayslake Central was able to mount a comeback to pull off the win.
"You play in tournaments like this to get ready for Regionals, and we see that we have some things to work on to get ready," Mintus said.
The boys next play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Abingdon.
"We are playing some big schools in the tournament but that's who we will be playing from here on and in the Regional," Mintus said. "We have to adjust to the speed of the game and we are doing a nice job of that.
"We also have to take care of the ball better. We are making strides in some areas and we are struggling."