Now that the Heath High School girls basketball team has won its own tournament for the first time, the goal naturally has become successfully defending it for the first time.

Now that the Heath High School girls basketball team has won its own tournament for the first time, the goal naturally has become successfully defending it for the first time.

"It doesn't get any easier," coach Doug Griffin said of the challenge that awaits Monday and Tuesday during the seventh Heath Holiday Hoopla. "If you had the same kids back, maybe, but that isn't our situation."

The Bulldogs do have four players who were involved a year ago when they beat Grove City Christian 80-35 in the opening round and Columbus School for Girls 51-38 in the final.

The returnees include junior guard Megan White, who accounted for 36 points in the two games.

Coming off a knee injury that forced her to miss the second half of last season, White is averaging 23 points and the Bulldogs are 4-2 overall.

Heath will play CSG in Monday's second game, which will tip off approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 6 p.m. contest between newcomers Marion Pleasant and Logan. The consolation game is at 6 p.m. Tuesday with the championship game to follow.

This will be the first time the Bulldogs are Licking County's only representative. They have reached the final every year, losing to Watkins Memorial in 2002 and Liberty Union in 2006. Newark Catholic won the event from 2003-05.

Pleasant now looks to be the top threat to Heath's hold on the trophy.

The Spartans, who finished 21-2 last season, were 6-0 entering last Saturday's game against Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference-rival Marion Elgin, and longtime coach Mike Ward was closing in on another career milestone with 241 victories on his resume.

"Almost everyone's back from last year's team," Griffin, who has 289 career wins, said of the Spartans.

"They've got a couple of 6-foot girls (junior Amy Daniels and senior Darian Hempy) and a tremendous outside shooter (senior Ashley Andrews)."

Logan, which lost to Newark 45-36 on Dec. 13, is led by twin sisters Meghan and Katie Hoffman, both of whom are guards. The Chieftains were 3-2 before playing Zanesville last Saturday.

Like Heath, CSG also will be ending a lengthy layoff for Christmas. The Unicorns haven't played since slipping to 3-3 with a 52-44 loss to Watterson on Dec. 20. The Bulldogs defeated Whitehall 53-45 in their most recent game on the same day.

"I don't like that long of a break but it's just the way the schedule worked out," Griffin said. "Last year was a great experience for our girls and we're hoping for something similar. The girls are excited about it."