Candy Wilson

Candy Wilson, left, and Valparaiso, are playing in the Twin Lakes tournament this week. The Vikings are among the many Region teams traveling for games over the holidays.

John J. Watkins, File, The Times

It's a few days after Christmas and you know what that means.

Yep, it's time to get in the exchange line and take back those subpar presents you don't want.

Well, that and holiday basketball tournaments. If my count is right, 30 local boys teams will be hooping at 12 sites both near and far, from Columbia City to Knightstown, while 24 area girls teams will take part in 13 events. The girls schedule includes a five-day junket for Marquette Catholic, which is in the middle of a two-day, three-game pool play tourney at Franklin County, located on the Ohio line, then heads to Plainfield for a pair of games Saturday.

"We knew we wanted to go on one holiday tournament, but then the Plainfield opportunity came up and we were still in need of some games so we just went for both," Blazers coach Katie Collignon said before Wednesday's trek.

Marquette will face quality opponents from larger schools, which will help down the road in its run for a Class A state title. Individually, it will provide some valuable exposure for Sophia Nolan and Emma Nolan, who will both be Indiana All-Star, if not Miss Basketball, hopefuls next seasons.

"I love playing in new, different environments as well as against teams that we really don’t know much about," Collignon said. "It makes the kids adapt a bit more. The challenge of playing two games in one day, two days after Christmas, where we just had six days off, will definitely challenge them both mentally and physically, but hopefully we are up for that challenge."

While there are some local get-togethers (Highland and Calumet for boys, Lake Station, Bishop Noll and Hanover Central for girls and Kankakee Valley co-ed), most teams are road tripping it with an overnight stay included on the itinerary.

"It's really nice for the kids to get away," said Portage boys coach Rick Snodgrass, who's in his seventh year at the Bob Wettig tournament in Richmond. "High school basketball's supposed to be about the experiences. Some of these kids don't get to travel a lot, so it's fun for them. They bond."

Portage is the only local team in the stacked 16-team field that includes four state-ranked teams -- Cathedral, Attucks and Tindley of Indianapolis and Greensburg. Its junior varsity team will also be participating for the first time.

"We've gone 3-1 a couple times and been consolation champion," Snodgrass said. "You can go 2-2, 1-3 against some unbelievable teams and have played well. We always try to have our kids play as good of competition as we can."

While the tourneys don't necessarily correlate with postseason success, you'll be hard pressed to find a coach who doesn't think the holiday games serve their teams well over the balance of their schedule. A loss to a high-caliber opponent can be much more beneficial than a blowout win over a weaker foe.

"Once (the Duneland Athletic Conference) got rid of the double round-robin, it was a no-brainer to go get four games outside of the conference," Snodgrass said. "You look at what's happened since. We're getting teams back in the semistate, so it's been a positive."

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Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.