While it is easy to look at the long Christmas break from school as an opportunity to recharge and prepare for the new year, many of the area sports programs have taken a different approach.

Some travel out of state for tournaments, while others stay close to home.

There are 5 a.m. team building exercises and titles to defend.

It's clear that this time of the year for high school sports teams is about as fun as it gets. Games don't count in power points and the opponents - whether in state or out of state - are usually teams they wouldn't get to face very often.

"It's a great situation for the coaches and players," Mountain Pointe athletic director Ian Moses said. "Everyone wants to get better and improve, but this is often a chance to do things differently and find out what a lot of teams are about."

The Mountain Pointe boys basketball team won the Horizon Invitational last week to improve to 8-0, and look to remain undefeated as the opposition gets tougher in the VistMesa.com Basketball Challenge at Mountain View Dec. 27-31.

The Desert Vista boys hoops team is definitely busy as the Thunder headed to San Luis Obispo, Calif., last week for the Mission Prep Christmas Classic and will be in the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge at Mountain View.

The Thunder's girls program played in the Nike Tournament of Champions event last week at Hamilton and take off for Tucson next week, Dec. 27-30, for the Northwest Desert Classic, hosted by Pusch Ridge and Canyon del Oro.

The Mountain Pointe girls team is playing in the inaugural Monsoon Classic Dec. 28-30 at Valley Vista in Surprise.

Soccer teams have a new option this season as the Arizona Soccer Showcase cropped up with the Phoenix Sports Commission serving as host alongside Hamilton. The 48-team (24 for each gender, including some out-of-state teams) is Dec. 27-30 at Scottsdale Sports Complex, as Mountain Pointe entered both teams.

The Desert Vista wrestling program is back in California to defend its North Torrance Tournament of Champions title Dec. 29-30.

The Thunder won the 63-team event last season with three champions and three other placers.

By the time school is back in session, the old routine comes back and monotony can settle in if the coaches are not careful.

It is why a lot of coaches approach the Christmas break as a time to experiment.

"You can try guys in different spots and change up the lineup," Mountain Pointe boys coach Brian Fleming said. "Team chemistry is always a focus and it is a good way to build a little bit by keeping it light."

There is nothing light about the Pride's schedule once the break ends as Brophy, Desert Vista (twice), Corona del Sol (twice), and Hamilton wait in the finals months.

First, however, Chaparral, Dobson and a tough California program are on the schedule at the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge.

"It is some great competition and will prepare us for the games down the stretch," Fleming said. "We have one of the toughest schedules of the 62 teams in Division I. This is great competition that will help prepare us for a severely brutal stretch."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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