When the holiday season ends on Wednesday and local prep basketball leagues return to action, the games will take on more meaning.
The Class 4A and 2A Greater St. Helens Leagues will open league play this week, and the 3A GSHL will resume league play.
And with most area teams having already logged eight to 12 non-league games, it's starting to become more evident which teams are considered the league favorites, even if win-loss records don't always tell the story.
A couple of weeks ago the Union boys had a 3-3 record after a tough non-league loss at home to Federal Way. And there were thoughts of whether or not any 4A boys team from Clark County would be a factor come the postseason in February.
But a closer look at the Titans' 62-59 loss to Federal Way revealed that Federal Way was the No. 2 ranked team in the state by the Seattle Times.
Then the Titans went to Seattle last week and rolled off three impressive wins over Lakes, Foss and Franklin. Foss and Franklin were top 10 teams in Class 3A, according to the Seattle Times rankings.
Union sits at 6-3 entering league play, and the question now become if there is another 4A GSHL team ready to challenge the Titans. Only one other 4A GSHL holds a winning record: Skyview at 6-4.
"Union is probably the favorite," Skyview coach Adam Horn admitted. "But the rest of the league is wide open this year."
On the girls side of the 4A GSHL, Union and Evergreen both enter league play with 7-3 records. But that's where the similarities end. Two of Evergreen's three losses came against Mountain View and Mark Morris, two teams Union routed in non-league play.
So it looks like Union is the team to beat in 4A girls, with Evergreen and Camas in pursuit.
And then there's Skyview, the defending 4A state champion who has limped to a 4-6 mark in non-league play.
The Storm have been turning to younger players to fill holes in the lineup created by graduation and injuries. Skyview could be a dangerous team by season's end.
"We're making some strides," Skyview coach Jennifer Buscher said.
It's the same old story in 3A GSHL girls basketball — Prairie is the clear favorite, despite dropping back-to-back games at the Energy Classic in Gillette, Wyo., last week.
Columbia River, Hudson's Bay and Fort Vancouver are improved, but not enough to thrust themselves into the upper division of the league. That leaves Kelso and Mountain View left to challenge the Falcons.
Prairie coach Mike Smith expressed some concern about Kelso. But as Prairie routed Kelso 65-15 in the league opener on Dec. 10, we're not buying it.
Now the boys race in the 3A GSHL looks to be very interesting.
Columbia River has the early lead in the league at 2-0 and 7-4 overall. But Prairie and Mountain View also carry 8-4 overall records as league play resumes. And you cannot go to sleep on Kelso (5-5), Fort Vancouver (5-5) or Hudson's Bay (4-8). Bay has won four in a row after an 0-8 start.
"There are no nights off in our league this season," Mountain View coach Nate DuChesne said. "That's why we have to get better at playing more consistently. A bad night will cost you a win in this league, no matter who you play."
In 2A GSHL boys basketball, Mark Morris opens league play once again as the hands-down favorite. The Monarchs are ranked fourth in the state by the Seattle Times. But if there is a team that figures to make life tough on the Monarchs, it would have to Washougal.
The Panthers take an 8-4 record into league play, with three losses coming against 4A GSHL teams and the fourth to a 3A GSHL team. That tough non-league slate will get the Panthers ready to take on the Monarchs.
Mark Morris also looks to be the class of the 2A GSHL in girls basketball, too. The Monarchs are 9-2 with the two losses coming to the favorites in the 4A GSHL (Union) and 3A GSHL (Prairie). Mark Morris is ranked No. 2 by the Seattle Times.
Finding a team to challenge the Monarchs among 2A GSHL girls teams is a bit tough. R.A. Long has an 8-3 mark, which looks impressive. But R.A. Long also has a lot of narrow wins against teams that aren't exactly powerhouses. Washougal is 7-5, but also has had similar results as R.A. Long.