For a basketball lifer like Wheaton Warrenville South boys coach Mike Healy, the visions dancing in his head beat sugar plums hands down.
"I told the kids it'd be the first time in my lifetime I'll put my head down on Christmas Eve and not have a loss," the 10-year coach said after his Tigers improved to 10-0, 6-0 in the DuPage Valley Conference with Tuesday's 76-54 win over Metea Valley in Aurora.
"They just have full buy-in," Healy said, reflected by season-high scoring, 73 percent shooting and forcing 22 turnovers from Metea Valley (3-6, 2-3).
Dillon Durrett's 31 points led four Tigers in double figures, joined by Chase Stebbins with 17 and Healy's sons Jake and Drew each with 12. WW South made 32 of 44 field-goal attempts, 9 of 17 on 3-pointers.
"They don't care who scores, they don't care what the score is, they play really hard," Mike Healy said. "They know that when they walk on the floor they're going to be looked at like, this is maybe a sophomore group sometimes. They've worked hard and they do things right and have been easy to coach. I'm happy for them."
The overall height may not scream varsity but extra passes and pressure defense are an equalizer. After Metea's Ashton Creal, Payton Thorne and Jeremy Hunter paced a 19-15 Mustangs lead after one quarter, WW South responded with a 20-2 run.
"I just think we were moving the ball around, looking for the open guy," said Durrett, who began the streak with successive lay-ins on Drew Healy lobs.
Occasionally applying full-court defense before falling into 1-2-2 half-court pressure, in the first five minutes of the second quarter WW South forced 8 turnovers on 11 Mustangs possessions, heading to a 39-28 halftime lead.
"Turnovers were killing us," said Thorne, whose 13 points tied Hunter for team honors with Creal at 12. "We've just got to put a full game together. We've got to take our first quarters and get them going over a full game, see what we can do."
Durrett and Parker Robinson steals helped maintain a comfortable third-quarter margin. A 12-3 Tigers run opening the fourth quarter built a 70-46 lead with 5:12 left to play.
"This team wants to play fast, but we've got to play fast under control," said Mustangs coach Matt Walpole. "We talked about it defensively, if we give up in the 70s it's really difficult to be successful like that. We've got a lot of holes in our defense and they exposed it tonight."
Metea is not alone. Nine others have fallen to WW South intensity.
"Our goal was just to play hard and keep playing hard, take baby steps, you know what I mean?" Durrett said. "Take one game at a time and not really focus on the future until we conquer the present."