In a strange sort of way, a loss for a team with high expectations can be a good thing.
At the same time, a narrow victory can give a team confirmation that it will be able to adapt and overcome when the going gets tough.
Take the case of the Genoa and Lake girls basketball teams, who meet in the Press Game of the Week on Jan. 15 in Millbury.
On Dec. 28, a 7-0 Genoa team suffered its first loss of the season, a 53-39 setback at home against a 5-2 Toledo Christian squad.
"It was a poor shooting night," Comets coach Tom Kontak said. "Toledo Christian is a solid team. They did some things defensively that we were not ready for offensively. The good news is, it was a learning experience and we've adapted a few things from that loss.
"In a strange sort of way, that loss turned into a positive. We're still learning who we are. That was one of those games we learned from."
On the other side of the coin, coach Denny Meyer's unbeaten Flyers nearly suffered their first loss on Dec. 30 against Fostoria St. Wendelin. The visiting Mohawks made a layup at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, but Lake went on to earn a 45-37 win to improve to 8-0.
"We talked about it, that our girls could have easily folded after St. Wendelin hit that shot at the buzzer," Meyer said. "You could see their focus in overtime. They were not going to lose that game. Our two post players, Kayla Reilly and Drew Plummer, scored 10 of our 12 points in overtime. They really stepped up for us. Drew also had a career-best 15 rebounds."
A year ago, Lake snagged a tough 39-32 win over St. Wendelin, and Meyer said it helped propel the Flyers to a 20-0 regular season and the Suburban Lakes League title.
"They are a very good team," Meyer said. "Two years ago they went undefeated and were one game away from the state tournament. When we beat them last year, that turned the corner for us because they were the first really physical team we had beaten. Playing at their place is very hard. It's a small gym and they pressure you like crazy. They kind of play like we do defensively."
Kontak said he won't need to remind the Comets of last year's seven- and 21-point losses to the Flyers.
"Both communities get very excited," he said. "We have a great amount of respect for Lake. They haven't lost a regular-season game in the last two years. We're a little better defensively this year than we were last year. The game and the excitement in the air will take care of itself. It was a sellout here last year. Whoever would have imagined two Division III girls teams having a sellout here and a near-sellout at their place?"
In their first meeting last season, both teams were 14-0 heading into their SLL showdown at Genoa.
"We got in there at 5:15 and the place was already packed," Meyer recalled. "The game at our place was great because that (win) clinched the league title for us that night. We will go into this game doing what we always do on defense. Genoa has two very strong posts and our posts have to play like they've been playing recently. That will be a key, if our posts can handle their posts."
The Comets' starting post players are 5-10 juniors Jessica Feller and Alyssa Meis. Through eight games, Feller is averaging 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, while Meis is averaging 9.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Junior Julie Swartzmiller is averaging 10.3 points and 3.8 rebounds.
Genoa is averaging 47.9 points per game while allowing 38.4.
"I like the fact that we've been pretty solid defensively," Kontak said. "In six of our our eight games we've kept opponents in the 30s. You have to guard all our players. They've all shown an ability to score. I like the overall athleticism of the group. We're going to get up and down the floor and get after you."
The Flyers' leading scorer is Brittenham, at 16 points per game. Jessica Abbey is averaging 9.9 points and Plummer leads the team in rebounding with an 8.5 average. Lake is scoring 54 points a game while allowing 32 per game.
Meyer said the Flyers have played pretty much up to his expectations so far.
"Right now we're a little inconsistent with our scoring, which we felt that might happen," Meyer said. "We have a lot of girls who didn't get a lot of varsity experience last year. We rely on our guard play and if we're not having good shooting nights, it makes it tough on us and we hope our defense keeps us in games."