The proving ground is over.

Games are no longer just about finding a good rotation or trying out players in different positions.

The holiday tournaments are over and other than wrestling the next big bracket-style event for basketball and soccer teams are the state tournaments.

It’s January already and the February Frenzy is not far enough.

However, before it becomes about power points and seeding positions here is a look at how many of the area teams did during the Christmas break.

The true winner of the tournament time might have been the Desert Vista girls basketball team.

After going a respectable 1-2 in the always-difficult Nike Tournament of Champions, the Thunder defended its title at the Northwest Desert Classic in Tucson by going 5-0, including an impressive 50-42 win over Seton Catholic in the finals.

For a team with a new coach, implementing a new system and approach to the game, seeing it come together only cements the hard work being done is starting to payoff.

“It’s taking longer than I’d like, but we are getting there,” Jaysie Sheppard-Chambers said after the Nike event. “They are starting to understand what I want and, more importantly, why we are doing it.”

The Thunder is 10-5 overall with 10 games left in the regular season. Senior Kylie Butler is two points away from 1,000 and should get it on Tuesday when Desert Vista hosts Corona del Sol.

The Mountain Pointe boys team has had a very similar season as the Pride seemed to be heading in the right direction after a slow start under first-year coach Aaron Windler.

Before Christmas the team headed to Kentucky for a tough tournament and played its best game of the year on the final day for a 1-2 mark and then came back to Arizona to win two more games before falling 67-62 to Desert Mountain in the finals of the Holiday Hoopfest at Boulder Creek.

“We did some good things,” Windler said. “We were up nine in the first half (against Desert Mountain) and probably could have gotten it to 12 or 13 if it weren’t for some turnovers, but really we are playing much better than we were a month ago so now we are getting ready for a brutal stretch run.”

The Pride started back up at home Thursday against Brophy and travel to Corona del Sol on Friday. Throw in two games against Mesa and two against Desert Vista, including a game at US Airways Center, along with some other top teams and the Pride has to be at its best the rest of the way.

“We saw how we needed to play harder and it started to come together,” senior Tre Campbell said. “We are just going to win as many games as possible.”

The Desert Vista girls soccer team was pretty successful as well considering a lot of the players missed time because of holiday travel plans. Even their head coach Marvin Hypolite was gone as he went back to his home country of Trinidad and Tobago for a family wedding.

It didn’t stop the Thunder from winning their pool and a quarterfinal game before falling to Pinnacle 3-1 in the semifinals of the Arizona Soccer Showcase.

“Overall we played pretty well (in the tournament),” assistant coach Bruce Hough said. “We expect to see (Pinnacle) again.”

The other soccer teams didn’t fare as well as the Mountain Pointe girls went 0-2-1 and the boys were 0-3 in the Arizona Soccer Showcase. The Desert Vista boys went 1-2 in the Southern California High School Classic.

The Mountain Pointe girls basketball team went 1-2 in the Nike TOC and carry a 13-3 record into the final month of the season.

The Desert Vista wrestling program finished fifth at the North Torrance tournament with Tristan Ezell earning the highest individual placement at fourth place at 195 pounds.

It all adds up to a hectic, but impressive, showing by area teams and has them well prepared for the last month of the season.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSKodaAFN

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