Garland County basketball teams will host three different tournaments after Christmas from Dec. 28 to Dec. 30 in preparation for the upcoming conference season.
Lakeside is hosting the Spa City Tournament, and Arkadelphia, Benton, Maumelle Charter, Mountain Pine, Mount Saint Mary's, Nashville, Robinson and Strong are competing in the event.
The boys side of the Spa City Tournament includes an actual bracket with Lakeside, Strong, Benton, Robinson, Mountain Pine and Arkadelphia all competing for a championship.
The Rams (5-3) are off to a decent start, and Lakeside head coach Eddie Lamb said his team has only had its top seven together for its last two games. Heading into the tournament, Lamb said Lakeside needs to improve on shooting and just getting healthy.
"You know, constantly making shots and being the better shooting team," he said. "We have been shooting the ball better of late, and we probably need to spend more time on it and getting healthy. We haven't been full strength the whole season. So getting healthy and making some shots would be nice."
Lamb highlighted the competition Lakeside will be up against at the Spa City Tournament.
"Arkadelphia is sitting there with one loss on the year, and they've already won a tournament at Pea Ridge," he said. "Benton will be very competitive. Joe T. Robinson is always -- they just got through winning a state championship in football, so you know they've got some good kids over at Joe T. Then I think ourselves, I think that's four really good teams. We've got a couple small schools in there, but very good traditional schools."
The girls side of the tournament is structured more like a classic and includes multiple sets of games but no bracket.
"I expect us to at least make a great attempt at getting back into rhythm and rotation," Lakeside head coach Jay Williams said. "Coming off a holiday break that's always a struggle with basketball teams just getting back into basketball mode."
Williams said the tournament is going to be good for his team as it heads toward conference play in January. He highlighted the game against Benton as an important matchup, and said it will tell the Lady Rams (5-3) where they stand and where they need to go.
"Benton, they're a real strong team, a very respected program, well coached and have two dominant players," he said. "So we're actually looking forward to going up against them again. I think they'll be perhaps the biggest challenge in this tournament. But nevertheless we've got some other teams in there such as Nashville, and I'm pretty sure they're going to give us a run for our money as well. We're just looking forward to some good competition."
Jessieville will host the Larry Ray Memorial tournament, and Bigelow, Caddo Hills, Cutter Morning Star, Mount Ida and Scott Charter will be playing in the event. Both the girls and boys tournaments are structured with a traditional bracket.
Jessieville boys head coach Jared White said he looks for the tournament to simulate what regional or district tournaments might be like in the postseason.
"I think the main thing is we're just trying to continue to gain some experience," he said. "We've got a really young team this year. Really want to make sure we stay sharp over the break because we'll start back on Jan. 4 with conference play. I expect us to play well. We usually do at home."
Jessieville (3-5, 2-1 3A-5) is still trying to figure some things out defensively, and offensively White said his team is not turning the ball over a lot, but sometimes the Lions settle for 3-pointers instead of attacking more. The tournament will give Jessieville a chance to iron those things out before conference play really kicks into gear.
"I just want to see us get more consistent," he said. "We're kind of trying to figure out what our best lineup is defensively and what we can do with that lineup. We've started to figure some things out, but for me defensively I want to see us rebound the ball much more consistently. On the offensive side I want to make sure we're getting quality shots each possession."
Jessieville girls head coach Magen Scrivner noted that like most teams playing in holiday tournaments, her players will be coming back from a few days away from the court and looking to build rhythm.
Scrivner said the competition in the Larry Ray Memorial tournament is really good, and the competition will help the Lady Lions (3-6, 1-2) prepare for conference play.
"We see different kinds of style of play and teams we don't normally see in season," she said. "It helps us be able to maybe defend different stuff that we maybe don't see in our conference play to get ready for conference. So those are the kinds of things we like to see."
Scrivner said the Lady Lions' season has been good so far, but Jessieville faces a tough conference season on the horizon.
"We've got a really, really tough conference," she said. "Our league is really, really tough. I feel like it's one of the toughest conferences in 3A. This tournament will help us get back and ready for conference. But we're having a pretty good season."
The Larry Ray Memorial tournament is about more than just the basketball that is played on the court. Jessieville has been able to use proceeds to create a scholarship for a senior girls and a senior boys basketball player.
"We just want to honor the late Larry Ray who was a long time seventh grade basketball coach here at Jessieville all those years and volunteered his time," White said. "I mean just being at Jessieville -- this is my fifth year now -- I haven't heard a negative story about coach Larry Ray. We still have people that were very close to him that still help us here at Jessieville."
The Lake Hamilton boys basketball team looks to continue its stellar start to the season when the Wolves host the Kameron Hale Invitational. Emerson, Kirby, Nashville, Little Rock Catholic and Acorn are teams Lake Hamilton head coach Scotty Pennington highlighted on the boys side of the bracket.
Pennington said the Wolves (7-3) need to learn how to finish games after two of Lake Hamilton's three losses came in games where they held leads.
"We open up with Emerson, which is kind of a neat side story; it's where I graduated high school," he said. "I get to coach against my old high school and some of my friends' kids, so that's going to be kind of neat. We're looking forward to that. We just need to clean up some things in the fourth quarter with leads, and we'll be fine."
The girls bracket features Hot Springs, Centerpoint, Kirby, Mena, Bryant, Little Rock Hall and Acorn, which will be the first opponent for the Lady Wolves (8-2) Tuesday at 7 p.m.