(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
The Scott County Central boys basketball team found itself in that position Monday with the start of the 66th annual Southeast Missourian Christmas tournament.
The two-time defending tournament champion Braves experienced little resistance on their way to a 103-29 victory against Woodland to open the tournament at the Show Me Center.
"You got to get up early in the morning when you don't feel like getting up," SCC senior standout Otto Porter said. "When you play in the Christmas tournament, it just makes it funner. We were all ready to play."
The Braves appreciated improving to 7-2, but the players agree they prefer facing stiffer competition. SCC faced Chicago Simeon on Dec. 11 at the Midwest Shootout in Marion, Ill. Simeon, ranked No. 9 in USA Today's latest national rankings, beat the Braves 76-50, but that's the type of game the players prefer.
"It's a lot more enjoyable when you go out there and play against competition," Porter said. "You want to see how good you are and how better you can get playing against competition."
The Braves also played North Little Rock, which competes in the largest classification in Arkansas, at the Riverbend Classic earlier this season. North Little Rock handed the Braves their other loss this season. SCC knocked off out-of-state opponents Graves County, Ken., and Boliver, Tenn., earlier this season.
"You can learn a lot about your team in a game against some of the teams as tough as the ones we've played," Braves coach Kenyon Wright said. "You get to see who can handle the pressure and who can do this and who can do that. Individually, you get to see who's playing where they need to be playing."
The Braves, who have won the last two Class 1 state titles, hope their loaded early schedule pays off when they chase their third consecutive state crown in March.
"The goal is to get it to playing teams that are tough and good competition so the kids are playing at that level," Wright said. "It's tough. You get to go out there and play against people from other places and see how you match up against teams like that. You hope it helps you come the Christmas tournament and more or less at the end of the season."
That doesn't mean the Braves didn't learn anything from Monday's lopsided win.
"Just work on not being so sloppy, executing," Braves senior Stewart Johnson said. "That's what coach tells us in games like this, executing. Get to the next game and looking forward to the next game after that."
The Braves executed from the start against Woodland, jumping out to a 36-5 lead after the first quarter and 68-14 at halftime. SCC shot 57 percent (29 of 51) from the field in the first half. Porter led the way with 26 points on 12 of 13 (92 percent) shooting before the intermission.
Woodland shot 26 percent (11 of 42), while SCC finished at 58 percent (43 of 74) in the game.
Porter finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Johnson added 21 points.
Neil Johnson led the Cardinals with eight points.
WOODLAND (29) -- Nick Deck 2, Carson Gemeinhardt 2, David Gray 6, Martin Williams 6, Clayton Olmetti 4, Dylan Miller 1, Neil Johnson 8. 12 FG, 3-4 FT, 16 F. (3-pointers: Williams 2. Fouled out: Gray, Lance Yount)
SCOTT COUNTY CENTRAL (103) -- Stewart Johnson 21, Trey Johnson 10, Reggie Woodson 5, LaMarcus Steward 11, Otto Porter 28, Dominique Porter 17, Caleb Cockrell 3, Tyrell Avance 2, Antonio Johnson 2. 43 FG, 15-24 FT, 10 F. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none)