For fans of Highland Rebel basketball, the week between Christmas day and New Year's Day is usually filled with several trips to and from the Convocation Center in Jonesboro, as the school fights its way through the brackets of one of the toughest invitational tournaments in the state.
However, some of those fans probably found themselves with some extra time on their hands this year, as both the Rebels and Lady Rebels were knocked out in the first round of the 2010 NEA Tournament on the campus of Arkansas State University.
The sixth-seeded Rebels fell to their old 3-4A friends from Valley View 76-56 on Dec. 27, while the Lady Rebs were handed a 53-31 loss from Jonesboro later that same afternoon.
In the boys' clash, the third-seeded Blazers' ability to hit the 3 helped pave the way for a Valley View victory.
The Blazers knocked down 13 treys in the game, led by Chris Metcalf's four in the second period.
Highland was down by only two, 16-14, after one.
But Valley View came out on fire in the second period and grabbed control of the game.
Using a period-opening 16-0 run as a jump start, the Blazers outscored the Rebels 27-9 in the second.
Sterling Stowers (eight points) scored Highland's first points of the second with 3:37 left until the half and Jason Long (12 points) nailed a triple down the stretch, but Valley View took a 43-23 cushion to the halftime break.
The Rebels kept plugging in the third, but just could not keep Valley View from holding a 60-40 advantage heading into the final frame.
Garrett Johnson finished with 12 points for Highland. Brad Harris added six and Chase Hutchings five.
Ronnie Loftus had four and Quinton Maag three. Ethan Hoppe and Seth Morris posted two points each, while July Himschoot and Karam Sra logged one point apiece.
In girls' action, an ice-cold third period cost the Highland Lady Rebels dearly in a 53-31 loss to Jonesboro later in the afternoon.
The sixth-seeded Lady Rebs managed to grab a 10-9 lead after the first period, but with third-seeded Jonesboro holding Highland to no field goals and eight free throws during the second frame, the Lady Hurricane took a 25-18 cushion into intermission.
Then things really came undone for Highland in the third. Posting just one point in the frame, the Lady Rebels found themselves in a big 44-19 hole after three periods of play.
Highland could not recover and Class 6A Jonesboro ended the contest with a 53-31 victory. Alex Isaacs tallied a team-high 13 points for Highland. Isaacs was named to the All-Tournament team for Highland.