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By JOEL COLEMAN
For East Webster boys basketball coach Corey Stidham and girls coach Mandy Fondren, it's catch-up time.
While most schools hooped it up full-swing for the entire month of November, Stidham's Wolverines have played just one game.
Fondren's Lady Wolverines have played only three.
With the East Webster Invitational Tournament beginning today, both sets of Wolverines will get the chance to gain the valuable game experience that they've missed up to this point.
Both the Wolverines (0-1) and Lady Wolverines (0-3) will play three games in three days against area rivals Eupora, Ackerman, and West Oktibbeha.
"It don't matter if you're in Little League or the NBA, what makes you better is getting out on the court in a game and getting the feel of the game," said Stidham.
The primary culprit of East Webster's lack of time on the hardwood to this point was the school's deep run into the Class 2A football playoffs.
The Wolverines' gridiron success left a gaping hole in Stidham's basketball roster with players including Miguel Graham, Ledrick Patterson and Xavier Moye completing their football commitments.
Thus Stidham patiently waited before tipping off the basketball campaign.
That finally happened on Tuesday as the East Webster boys fell to Houston 60-57.
In the process, Stidham indicated his team looked exactly like a team that hadn't played a game yet.
"We turned the ball over at crucial times," said Stidham after the game. "First-game jitters I'm sure has a little bit to do with it but no excuses. You got beat. You've got to make plays when you get the opportunity, finish around the basket, and make free throws."
Stidham hopes to see his team's Tuesday mistakes start getting corrected when the Wolverines tip off against Ackerman at 8:30 p.m. today.
"The more we play, the better we're going to get," said Stidham. "We practiced four days through Thanksgiving and practiced (Monday), so we've got four or five days worth of practice. But we get tired of going at each other. We need that game-time experience which will make you better game after game the more you get."
Following the Ackerman game, Stidham's boys will match up with West Oktibbeha at 8:30 p.m. Friday and mix it up with county rival Eupora at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
While perhaps not to the extent of Stidham's boys, Fondren's Lady Wolverines are also a bit behind the 8-ball.
Never was that more evident to Fondren than in Tuesday's 51-33 loss to Houston.
"Game experience would have definitely made a difference," said Fondren Tuesday. "(Houston) has played seven games now. We've played three. In practice, I can't simulate things like (Houston's man-to-man defense). Game experience will help that more than anything."
The Lady Wolverines will get their next taste of on-court time tonight at 7 p.m. against Ackerman.
Beginning with the Lady Indians, Fondren already knows one thing she wants to see.
"No turnovers," said Fondren. "We had 33 turnovers our first game, then cut it to 15 in our second game. We had 20 (Tuesday). That's bad, but not as bad as that first game. So we've improved a little bit there. We just have to work on controlling the basketball."
After playing Ackerman today, Fondren's girls will face West Oktibbeha at 7 p.m. Friday before tangling with Eupora at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
"We have until January to get it together," said Fondren. "These games prepare us for district play."
Over the course of East Webster's three-day event, there will also be a 4 p.m. girls game and 5:30 p.m. boys game each day.
The boys and girls squads of West Oktibbeha and Eupora play the early games today, followed by Eupora and Ackerman on Friday, and West Oktibbeha and Ackerman on Saturday.