After the Heath High school girls basketball team began the season with a 72-68 loss Nov. 28 at Utica, coach Doug Griffin probably already was dreaming of the physical reprieve Christmas break would bring a thin lineup.

After the Heath High school girls basketball team began the season with a 72-68 loss Nov. 28 at Utica, coach Doug Griffin probably already was dreaming of the physical reprieve Christmas break would bring a thin lineup.

In the wake of a five-game winning streak, however, he may no longer be thinking along those lines.

"Well, you always like playing when you're winning," Griffin said. "But it might be a good thing when there's only seven kids you're playing. It's a chance to rest up a little bit and save our legs."

The Bulldogs play their first game in 10 days against Watkins Memorial at 6 p.m. Monday in the opening game of the Liberty Union Holiday Tournament. The host Lions play Lakewood in the second game, with that tipoff slated for 7:30 p.m.

The teams swap opponents for Tuesday's action with the same start times. The Bulldogs, who last played in a 62-45 victory at Whitehall on Dec. 19, face Liberty Union in the second game.

"I like the way we're playing right now," said Griffin, whose team is 5-1 overall and shares the MSL-Ohio Division lead with Newark Catholic at 5-0 as Granville is third at 4-1. "Jocelyn Mitchell had 19 points and 17 (rebounds) against Whitehall, and that's given us more of an inside-out game than people might have been expecting from us."

Mitchell, a senior post player, has scored in double-digits in half of the games so far and averages 9.8 points. Senior shooting guard Megan White, who scored a career-high 42 points in the loss at Utica, is averaging 24.7 points as the team's leading scorer in five games.

The Warriors, on the other hand, are struggling offensively. They were averaging only 28.5 points and were 0-7 overall after losing to Olentangy Orange 69-26 last Tuesday. Lakewood, which also hasn't played in 10 days, is 1-5 overall.

The perimeter-oriented Lions, meanwhile, should give Heath a chance to test its fitness level coming out of Christmas break. They improved to 6-3 overall with a 51-41 victory last Monday at Northridge as guards Krista Mathews and Britney Barwick scored nine and eight points, respectively.

The Lions also were effective moving the ball inside to their younger post players. Sophomore Taylor Moore and junior Alisha Turley had 10 points each, and freshman Taylor Dickerson also is seeing time.

Heath's matchup against Liberty Union should be the best game of the tournament, but Lakewood's contest on the second night with the Warriors should be a growing experience for both.

"Watkins is fighting the same problem some of the rest of us here in the county are - low numbers," Griffin said. "I know I got a fax the other day from them saying they wouldn't have a (junior varsity) team in the tournament."

•ELSEWHERE - Three other area teams are traveling during the holidays.

Newark plays in the West Chester Lakota West Hoops Festival, facing the host Firebirds at 5:30 p.m. Monday and Toledo Central Catholic at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday. Also, Granville Christian Academy is scheduled to meet Licking County Christian at 1 p.m. Monday in the Millersport Holiday Tournament.

Toledo Central Catholic started 5-0 overall and could be a top-10 team when the first Division I state poll of the season is released. Lakota West was 2-2 before playing rival Lakota East last Tuesday.

"Those will be two very good tests for us, no question," said Newark coach J.R. Shumate, whose team was 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio before playing last Tuesday at Grove City. "One thing I'm seeing that I like is that we've played much better late in games since we let a 15-point lead get away from us in the loss to Lancaster (41-40 in overtime on Dec. 4). That was tough on our girls, but I like the way they responded (winning three of the next four games entering last Tuesday)."