The Christmas holiday has taken on additional meaning for Northeast boys basketball coach John Barbour.
Along with the assortment of gifts under the tree and quality time spent with family and friends, the season also brings tournament prosperity.
The Eagles won the Bob Pascal Tournament for the second straight year, and the fifth time in eight tries, securing the latest championship Friday night with a hard-fought 52-50 victory over host Chesapeake.
Northeast had advanced to the final the previous night with an 83-72 win over Severna Park. Because of Thursday night's storm, the other semifinal was postponed until Friday afternoon, when Chesapeake downed Pallotti, 61-53.
The Cougars rested through the consolation game, won by Severna Park, 70-51, then took the floor for the final.
"We've had some strong teams for a few of those years," Barbour said, explaining Northeast's dominance in the tournament. "There were a couple times when we got waxed. Last year, we surprised Severna Park in the championship game (69-60). There's a little bit of luck there, too. And you have to be on a roll at the right time."
This, again, is the right time, as the victory upped Northeast's record to 6-2.
After taking a brief 2-0 lead, the Eagles would trail throughout the first half until one minute remained, when five straight points from Kevin Mursch and a Matt Conaway three-pointer helped the Eagles to a 24-20 halftime advantage.
Chesapeake twice reclaimed the lead, then fell behind by as many as eight points before rallying behind senior center Bryan King, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half despite being in foul trouble. He had 20 points in the win over Pallotti.
The Cougars had a chance to tie or win the game after gaining possession with 35 seconds left, but failed to get off a shot before the buzzer.
Mursch, who held an ice pack to his left elbow after the game, led Northeast with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Conaway, Zach Herold and Gene Pleyo each added nine points, and Scott Rey eight.
Chris Rizzo had 10 points for Chesapeake, which at 3-4 has already has won more games than all of last season.
"We knew where we were last year. We knew what to expect," said coach Tom Kraning, whose team was swept in last season's tournament en route to a 2-20 record. "We had a very young team. We only had one senior. Basically, we played 22 scrimmages. We knew it was a crucial thing to make some kind of turnaround."
They have, but Kraning still wants his team to raise its level of play.
"We're still not playing aggressive enough," he said. "We're giving up too much, because we're too nice on the floor."
In the consolation game, junior forward Rich Riffle scored 21 points to lead the Falcons, who survived a turnover-filled first quarter to improve to 3-5 overall. Junior guard Scott Brown and senior forward Darrick Moran added 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Pallotti sophomore forward Mike Doyle had 13 points, as the Panthers fell to 1-6.