HIGHLAND | You won't find Griffith's Gary Hayes or Highland's Jordan Heckard sitting on Santa's lap, not with everyone having camera phones these days.
But both coaches share the same obsessive Christmas wish — a winning season and long postseason run.
Griffith is a lot closer to unwrapping that gift.
The Panthers survived 22 turnovers and 9-of-24 foul shooting Friday night to turn back Highland, 52-37, in the Northwest Crossroads Conference opener for both.
"We had 14 days off because Morton postponed last Saturday and this felt like it was the first game of the season for us. It certainly looked like it," said Hayes.
Flint Powell's 15 points led the Times No. 10 Panthers (3-1), who outrebounded Highland 31-20 and had four players grab five or more.
Tremell Murphy added 12 and Rodney Lewis had 11.
For Highland (2-4), which also lost the ball 22 times and was 10-of-19 from the line, Tommy Brankin had 15 points as the only player in double-figures.
"Turnovers are going to happen because I'm letting us play faster," Hayes said. "I'm not coaching like I did 20 years ago. We've got athletes and speed and we're playing like this at all the levels."
Point guard Powell, the engine that drives this team, would have it no other way.
"All our big men can run," Powell said. "We start three seniors and the two sophomores (6-5 Tremell Murphy, 6-4 Anthony Murphy) ... I just try to keep them under control and not play to the crowd."
Griffith's last winning season was 2009-10, while Highland's had losing records in six of the last seven.
"We can't simulate how quick they are and how they can trap and get us in trouble," Heckard said. "We fought back a couple of time, got with seven or eight points, but they've got athletes who can make things happen."