Seeing relatives around the holidays is nothing new.
It's a time when families gather around to celebrate the season and take a small break from work.
Or, in the case of Salem Greyhound Head Coach Wendall Smith, you get to see a relative and work at the same time.
The Greyhounds' opponent in the first round of the 2003 NEA Tournament was a familiar one -- the Swifton Pirates.
Not only had Salem defeated Swifton just four days earlier for the Greyhounds' first win of the year, the Pirates are coached by Pharis Smith, the younger brother of Salem's head coach.
The end result of Dec. 20's NEA matchup was much the same as the earlier one, with the Greyhounds making it two in a row in less than a week over Swifton with a 57-54 win at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center.
The Greyhounds jumped out on top early and fought off a Pirate attack to hold on for victory.
After Salem cruised to a 20-7 lead at the end of the first period, the Pirates battled their way back into the game.
Trailing 31-22 at halftime, Swifton kept slicing into the Greyhound margin, and by the end of the third period the Pirates were down by just four, 48-44.
Swifton then knotted the game at 50-all with under five minutes to play in the fourth, before the Greyhounds (2-7) climbed back on top for good.
With Salem up by two and the clock winding down, the Pirates missed a close shot in the paint that would have tied the score. Instead, Salem's Chad Willett (nine points) was fouled and hit a free throw to make the score 57-54, Greyhounds.
Swifton had one last chance, a 3-pointer at the buzzer that bounced off the rim, giving the Greyhounds a first-round NEA win.
Robbie Hurtt and Tyler Humphries paced Salem with 11 points each, while Kyle Estes added nine.
Despite opening the season winless, the Salem Greyhounds' record of 0-7 is somewhat deceiving.
The Greyhounds have been competitive in every one of their games on the new season, with a chance at victory every time they've stepped on the court.
Fueled with the knowledge they are indeed a talented team, the Hounds hit the road Dec. 16 for a trip to take on the Swifton Pirates.
Not only did the Greyhounds need a win to turn their season around, Salem Head Coach Wendall Smith wanted a victory over Swifton's Head Coach Pharis Smith to prove that big brother still knows best.
In what turned out to be a thrilling contest, the Hounds broke their winless streak with a close 63-59 win over the Pirates.
The Greyhounds turned a four-point halftime deficit into a seven-point lead after three, before things got dicey in the fourth period.
Clinging to a one-point lead, 60-59, with 12 seconds left in the game, the Greyhounds got a pair of huge free throws from Justin Howell to put them up 62-59. Up to that point in the period, Salem had struggled from the charity stripe, shooting one-for-nine in the fourth from the line.
Swifton raced down court and jacked up a 3-pointer to tie the game, missing it, with Phillip Taylor securing the ball and tossing in a free throw with one second on the clock to give Salem their first win of the year.
With Salem's 6-3 post presence, Leon Harvey, sidelined due to an injury, the bulk of the low block work fell on Justin Howell's shoulders.
Howell responded with 23 points to pace the Hounds.
Most of the first period belonged to the Greyhounds as they led up until the 20-second mark when Swifton's (4-11) Jordan Bond cashed in an old-fashioned 3-point play that swung the margin into the Pirates' favor, 12-11, after the first period.
Swifton built onto this lead in the second, 22-17, before Robbie Hurtt (14 points) canned the Hounds' first trey of the night to keep Salem hanging around.
Trailing by four, 24-20, at halftime, the Greyhounds made their move in the third period.
After knotting the game at 36-all with 2:34 left in the frame, Chad Willett (10 points) drilled a 3-ball, and Howell tossed in six points down low to stake Salem to a 45-38 lead after three.
This lead grew to 10 with 5:20 left in the last period before Swifton bounced back and threatened to swipe the lead back.
Hanging onto a seven-point lead, 60-53, with 50 seconds remaining on the clock, shaky free throw shooting almost derailed the Greyhounds' victory.
Salem missed six straight from the charity stripe, keeping the door open for the Pirates.
Bond drove the length of the floor for a layup with 12 seconds left in the game to pull Swifton within one, at 60-59.
That proved to be as close as the Pirates would get as Howell and Taylor lifted the Hounds out of their free throw funk with three late big ones and Salem held on for the win.
Taylor added seven points for Salem, while Kyle Estes and James Wagner had two points each. Tyler Humphries logged one point for the Hounds.
On the girls' side of things, coach Eric Chambers got all his Lady Greyhounds in on the action as Salem cruised to a 72-54 win over Swifton.
The Lady Hounds showed they meant business from the beginning by jumping out of the gates quickly.
Stephanie Barker (six points) and Samantha Smith (11 points) rang up back-to-back treys late in the first period to help Salem to a 17-9 lead after one.
The second period saw a parade to the foul line, part of 32 total fouls in the first half, as Salem remained in front.
Heather Bales logged eight points in the second, on her way to a team high 19 for the game, as the Lady Greyhounds went to the halftime break with a 37-24 lead.
The third period was all Salem as the Lady Hounds opened the frame with a 18-6 run to put the Lady Pirates in a hole they just couldn't climb out of.
Finishing the third strong with six unanswered points, Salem held a comfortable 61-36 advantage after three periods of play.
The fourth period saw Salem empty the bench, with all the Lady Hounds getting in on the act, as Salem posted a 72-54 win over Swifton.
Hannah Bray finished the contest with 10 points, while Ashley Smith added nine, and Tabitha Hall five.
Tori Watkins and Brittany Bales added four each, while Carrie Johnson posted three, and Bailey Wagner and Cassi Hickinbotham two points apiece.