In its 20th year, the Fifth Third Bank Holiday Tournament in Denver continues to attract strong competition, which is exactly what coaches want for their teams as they're entering their conference schedule.
"The whole purpose of the tournament for us is that we want our kids to play against good competition - and we feel like we provided that for them," said East Lincoln assistant coach Chip Ashley.
On the boys' bracket, the tournament saw a strong East Lincoln team come into their own gym a year after winning the tournament for the first time.
But the Mustangs, who are ranked No. 6 in the Observer's Sweet 16 poll, struggled to close out their first two games in the tournament and lost both.
In their first game, they lost to the eighth seed - Forestview. The Gastonia team made a strong run to the finals, where they beat county rivals East Gaston.
The Mustangs lost to Mallard Creek in the consolation bracket 48-46, but won the seventh place game against J.F Webb.
The girls won the third-place game against the North Mecklenburg Vikings.
The girls' championship game saw Myers Park beat Hickory Ridge by 15.
North Mecklenburg girls' coach Jennifer Baker said the level of competition at the tournament provides her Vikings a great way to warm up to the tough I-Meck competition.
"We're getting to see a lot of great guards and a lot of pressure, which is what we'll see against our conference, so it's good to play against that" she said.
Baker said holiday tournaments are important for basketball teams to grow, but also as a way to keep active.
"If you sit at home this whole time and you don't do anything during the Christmas break, you're definitely going to be way out of shape when you come back," she said.
These tournaments allow coaches to see what aspects of the game their teams need to polish.
"We feel like it will show some of our weaknesses that we need to work on to get ready to play and finish out the January-February schedule," Ashley said.
He added that these tournaments also allow teams to get used to a tournament atmosphere.
An extra benefit of playing at the Fifth Third Bank Holiday Tournament is that each team receives a check from the tournament. Ashley said that the money ranges between $250 to $400 per team depending on tournament expenses.
"Coaches can use that however they like - to buy T-shirts for their kids or whatever," he said.
Ashley said they enjoy hosting the yearly tournament, which he said has been well-embraced by the community.
The tournament is played in two gyms at East Lincoln. The newer gym was inaugurated in 2006 during that year's holiday tournament.
Ashley explained that the tournament has had such longevity because of the strong backing it has by the school's administration and the great local fan support, which can be seen during the marquee games of the tournament.
Ashley said that the Mustangs enjoy hosting the tournament, especially since they don't have to worry about finding a holiday tournament to play in every year.
"We don't have to worry about getting on a bus and going anywhere - we love hosting it."