Playtime's over, a new year's upon us and the bulk of the Foothills Council schedule lay before the Gloversville boys' and Johnstown girls' basketball teams.
The Dragons and Lady Bills have proven to be two of the top local teams so far this season, but their upcoming schedule will provide a better gauge of how good they might be.
Some coaches like to put articles like this up on a bulletin board in the locker room or somewhere the players will see it. It usually isn't a direct challenge, but the coach will sell it like that.
This one is exactly that.
So far, both teams have done what they should. They beat the teams they should beat and added a couple "feather-in-the-cap" victories.
It gets tougher now. Now we will get some indication of how these two squads might fare in the postseason. Now, there can be no off nights. Every team on the schedule will take advantage of an off night and the loser will move one rung down the sectional seeding ladder.
It will take some doing to get through the remaining games with as much success as these two teams saw in the first half - to make it a happy news year.
The Gloversville Dragons' non-league wins over Fonda-Fultonville and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake were impressive because the Dragons were smaller than both teams, but wins over New Hartford and Averill Park were expected.
They are 9-1 overall, having lost by four points to Scotia-Glenville on the road. When the Tartans come to Gloversville for the Feb. 3 rematch, the Dragons will have a big chip on their shoulder, but more importantly, a chance to split with a quality Class A team.
A split would help their sectional seeding. Rather, it wouldn't hurt it. Getting swept by the Tartans means a lower seed for the Dragons.
Also, if the perimeter marksmanship of Matt Baldwin and inside presence of Gabe Wells continue to get the job done for the Dragons, a split with Scotia will help Gloversville vie for a Foothills Council championship with the Tartans and South Glens Falls.
Don't overlook Hudson Falls, either. The Tigers return seven seniors and will visit Gloversville Friday. A win for the Dragons would be coach Don Landrio's 400th in his career.
The 8-1 Lady Bills lost their second game of the season at Fonda-Fultonville, then avenged the loss Dec. 30 with an 11-point victory. They are 4-0 in the Foothills Council so far, having beaten South Glens Falls and Glens Falls by four points and Scotia-Glenville by six.
Johnstown trounced Mayfield in the first game of the season and plays the Lady Panthers again tonight before returning to conference play. Herkimer and Bishop Gibbons were not very satisfying wins, leaving just the Fonda split as an important non-league series.
The girls' side of the Foothills Council is probably not as loaded as the boys' this season, but the Class B Lady Bills will be playing up in class against everyone except Broadalbin-Perth. That can do nothing but prepare them for the postseason.
They start Saturday with a game at Class AA Queensbury. It will be a challenge for the girls to keep winning while playing night-in and night-out against quality competition. Three of their four Foothills wins so far have been tight enough that either team could have won.
On the other hand, that speaks to the ability of the Johnstown girls to handle the pressure in the fourth quarter of a close game. That has to have coach Tim Derwin smiling entering the second half of the season.
Oh, did I forget to mention the first installment of this season's Gloversville-Johnstown series is just around the corner?
The boys will play Jan. 13 in Gloversville and the girls Jan. 14 in Johnstown.
Although the Lady Dragons and Sir Bills have had a rough start, these games always find a way of being interesting. Just more proof that no Foothills team can be overlooked.
Bill Cain is a sportswriter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.