The signs are pointing to Christmas being near.
Sure, it's easy to notice the lights and the trees are going up everywhere and the presents are starting to appear.
All of that helps in the anticipation of the season, but there's an extra treat this time of the year for the local sports fan.
There are two high school basketball tournaments taking place the next two weeks that brings plenty of holiday cheer.
For the 16th consecutive season, Columbus High School is hosting the Joe Horne Christmas Invitational.
Columbus boys coach Sammy Smith always does a good job of putting together a strong field filled with in-state and out-of-state talent. That will be the case again this year Friday and Saturday.
Following the Columbus event, the action shifts west in the Golden Triangle when Starkville High School puts together the Travis Outlaw Slam Dunk at the Hump Tournament. That will close out the year on Dec. 26-28.
Back to the schedule in Columbus, there will be seven games Friday and 10 more Saturday. Depending on how long you want to stay and watch, there's a pretty good deal to be had with the cost being $7 for all of the games on Friday and $8 on Saturday. That's only $1 per game on Friday and less than that on Saturday.
Teams from Starkville open the Joe Horne Invitational with the Starkville Academy girls taking on public school opponent Noxubee County at 3 p.m. Friday in gym one, while the Starkville High School girls meet Southaven a few minutes later in gym two at 3:40 p.m. The SHS boys follow the Lady Jackets against Noxubee County in gym two at 5 p.m.
On Saturday, the SA girls play another public school team in Center Hill at 1 p.m. in gym two and will be followed by the SHS boys against Holt, Ala., at 2:20 p.m. in gym two.
There are plenty of other interesting matchups surrounding those involving the Starkville teams, so people can make the short drive over and catch some pretty good games.
Other teams in the field are Gadsden, Ala., boys, Marion, Ark., boys, Shades Valley girls, Wenonah, Ala., boys, Jackson Provine boys, and Ridgeway, Tenn., boys.
The Ridgeway-Amanda Elzy boys game at 8 p.m. on Saturday may be the highlight of the Invitational.
Amanda Elzy had five Division I players and sports the top junior guard in the state. The coach is former Ole Miss player Gerald Glass.
Ridgeway is one of the top boys teams in the Memphis area. Greg Pryor, DeSean Dockery and Jonathan Book are billed as the top combo of guards in Memphis.
Of course, we know how tough the SA Lady Vols are and they will certainly be tested by Noxubee County and Center Hill. The tournament will be good for the SHS teams as well as it continues to develop.
The next two weeks are sure to be filled with sweet 3-point shots and high-flying dunks, so there's no better way to close out 2012 for the high school hoops fan.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.