PRESCOTT - It's fast, it's up-tempo and the clock is always a factor.
Try and catch your breath this Friday and Saturday when the 2nd annual Big 'O' Winter Classic girls' basketball tournament takes over two gyms at Prescott High School.
The 10-team field includes the hosts, the Badgers, as well as Prescott Valley's Bradshaw Mountain. The local rivals are in opposite pools meaning that, with some holiday magic, they could face off in Saturday's championship finale at 3 p.m.
One of the Winter Classic's quirkier elements is the use of a running clock throughout.
Games feature two 20-minute halves with a clock that never stops. Each team gets two timeouts, but the pressure is always on with the minutes constantly ticking down.
"It makes for a much more upbeat, fast game," PHS head coach Missy Townsend said Saturday. "Even though it's running, time-wise it's actually a longer game than a 32-minute game. I like the tournament format. It makes for good games, quick games, and you can get a bunch of games in."
Between both pools and two campus gyms, the tournament will squeeze 12 games into Friday's first day. Should any of the games go to overtime, an extra three-minute session will take place, also with a running clock.
Last year's tournament champion, Tempe's Corona del Sol, is back to defend its title with just about the same team as last winter. The host Badgers (8-3 overall) took second place on their own floor last year.
The Badgers have had some time off before the tournament. They've been off since this past Friday, but return to practice at 7 a.m. the day after Christmas to prepare for the Classic.
"I'm a big believer in family, and this is just such an important family time of year. I want all my girls to feel like this is an opportunity to have some good quality time with family," Townsend said of the Christmas time off. "We're hitting almost the halfway mark for the season, and I like to make sure that they're not getting burned out. They're getting some downtime, especially after finals."
This year's tournament field is down from 16 teams last year to 10. Out-of-town travel budget issues impacted some teams' ability to return in 2012.
Joining Bradshaw Mountain in Pool 1 is Tucson Sabino, Glendale Copper Canyon, Paradise Valley and Corona del Sol. In Pool 2, Prescott is joined by Glendale Raymond S. Kellis, Goodyear Desert Edge, Phoenix North Canyon and Phoenix O'Connor.