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Prep basketball: On the road: Local basketball teams going out of state this Christmas
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Basketball is a tournament sport.

In order to win any type of championship, from local to state, a basketball team has to be able to weather the storm of playing on consecutive days and, often times, do it without the luxuries of playing at home.

Teams have to be able to remain focused regardless of the length of a bus ride or enormity of a venue and they have to learn to quickly familiarize themselves with teams they don’t play in the regular season and never get a chance to see.

None of the above can be simulated in practice or region and regular-season play, but are a necessity to achieve tangible success.

So, how do coaches get their team’s ready for a run to a championship?

"As soon as the season was over last year I started looking for tournaments that were being played over Christmas," Lakeview coach Seth Vining said.

The past two years, Vining has had his Lions’ squads participate in tournaments over the holiday break in Orlando, Fla., and the Battle of the States in Hiawassee.

This year, Lakeview is playing in the Battle of the Border Shootout in Landrum, S.C. The Lions begin play at 8 tonight when they take on Landrum High School and Friday they will play either Broom High School out of Spartanburg, S.C. or Southside Christian out of Simpsonville, S.C.

"It’s basically all about making contacts," the coach said.

Vining’s team isn’t the only one in Hall County participating in tournaments outside the state over the holiday break from school.

The Chestatee boys begin play in the Sunshine Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla. at 1:30 p.m. today when they take on Suncoast High School out of the Bahamas. The three-day tournament ends Saturday.

East Hall began play yesterday in the Tampa Prep Classic in Tampa Bay, Fla., the tournament will continue through Saturday.

Vining noted, in regards to East Hall, that there were two types of tournaments, those a team solicits invitations for and those a team is invited to.

"The type of tournament East Hall is playing in is a special invitation tournament," said the former Vikings’ coach. "In order to be invited you have to have a special player that people want to see or a special team that people want to see."

As far as accommodations are concerned, unlike a college program which travels out of state on a weekly basis, high school programs don’t and therefore have no need for a operations manager who handles finding hotels and restaurants for the team.

Meaning the duty of providing for players over the course of a three-to-four-day tournament falls in the lap of the head coach.

"I set everything up myself," Vining said. "When I would go up there (Landrum) to visit family (Vining’s hometown is approximately four miles outside the town hosting the tournament) I would stop by a hotel and ask about team rates."

As for meals, the Lions will rely on their seniors.

"I let the seniors have a say so as far as where we eat is concerned," Vining said.

Aside from the exposure to a state tournament-like atmosphere, there is another advantage to playing out-of-state tournaments where outside distractions, for the most part, can be controlled by a coaching staff.

"Well, the best advantage is that it gives my team a chance to bond," Vining said. "And that, maybe more than anything, will help us down the road."

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