Now that the holiday tournaments are over, next up are the Martin Luther King weekend shootouts, which will send many of the top teams out of state to take on other regional and national powers.
This week, though, most teams settle into league play, and for the Xcellent 25, that usually means lots of minutes for the youngsters at the end of the bench.
MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Girls Basketball Rankings presented by the Army National Guard1. (1) Incarnate Word Academy (St. Louis), 11-0
The Red Knights proved their mettle at the Naples Holiday Classic, beating DMV power Paul VI in the semifinals and No. 3 Blackman in the finals. No. 6 Regis Jesuit is next.2. (5) Long Beach Poly (Calif.), 9-1
The Jackrabbits jump to No. 2 thanks to a 10-point win over Bishop O'Dowd, the only team to beat No. 5 Saint Mary's of Albany – and also a very difficult schedule that includes wins over No. 6 Regis Jesuit, No. 17 St. Mary's of Stockton and preseason Xcellent 25 member Riverdale of Tennessee. The one loss to Mater Dei can be forgiven, considering the quality of the rest of the wins.3. (3) Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), 15-1
Even though the Blaze lost to No. 1 Incarnate Word, they beat No. 19 Myers Park in the Naples Holiday Classic semifinals, and stay at No. 3. Big game coming up as Murfreesboro city rival Riverdale (13-3) visits on Friday.4. (4) Duncanville (Texas), 20-0
DeSoto and South Grand Prairie will both be decent tests for the Pantherettes, who can take care of business against solid teams in Texas while sitting back and waiting for the other top teams, who play more adventurous schedules, to beat up on each other.
5. (12) Saint Mary's (Albany, Calif.), 8-2
The Panthers headed south to play previous No. 2 Mater Dei and rose to the occasion, winning 55-41 behind the senior trio of Gabby Green
(Cal), Mikayla Cowling
(Cal) and Taylor Berry
(Santa Clara). League play won't be that much a challenge this week, so look for that record to improve.6. (6) Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.), 6-1
Regis had to take 10 days off due to Colorado rules, and now draws No. 1 Incarnate Word in St. Louis as its first opponent since before Christmas. And then in-state rival, very solid Grandview, is next, on the road. That's tough.
7. (7) Bedford North Lawrence (Bedford, Ind.), 13-0
Edgewood is 11-4, and normally would be the top opponent of the week Friday, but on Saturday, it's Indiana's battle of the unbeatens when Bedford North Lawrence plays at No. 13 Lawrence North at 7:30 p.m.8. (8) New Hope Christian Academy (Thomasville, N.C.), 17-0
The Phoenix go international this week, playing teams from Canada and Australia, but the big game is Friday against Heathwood Hall and elite recruit A'ja Wilson.9. (9) Homewood-Flossmoor (Flossmoor, Ill.), 9-2
It should be an easy week for Homewood-Flossmoor, as league play begins – though the Jan. 14 game against Bolingbrook, where Tony Smith coached last year, could be an emotional one.
10. (10) Fairmont (Kettering, Ohio), 11-1
Centerville is on the schedule Jan. 22, but until then, it looks like smooth sailing for the Firebirds.
11. (11) Whitney Young (Chicago), 12-1
The Dolphins may have lost in Texas, but they've won 119 straight home games. They play 13-2 Trinity on the road, though, so it's not going to be an easy week.
12. (2) Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), 12-1
After test after test after test, the Monarchs finally failed one, losing to No. 5 Saint Mary's of Albany, 55-41. But they bounced back to knock off a solid Camarillo team, and welcome 6-foot transfer Neah Odom
, who is eligible this week.13. (13) Lawrence North (Indianapolis), 13-0
Lawrence North has won every game by double digits, and in fact, the average margin of victory is more than 40 points. But when No. 7 Bedford North Lawrence comes to Lawrence North Saturday, it won't be nearly as easy.14. (14) Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia), 7-0
Neumann-Goretti will get a major test Saturday against New Jersey power Life Center, which has lost three times – but two of those have been to No. 8 New Hope Christian.15. (15) Rock Bridge (Columbia, Mo.), 8-2
Columbus North has just one loss, to No. 13 Lawrence North, and that's Rockbridge's opponent Friday in St. Louis. A win would be yet another entry into Rock Bridge's already impressive resume.16. (16) Joliet Catholic Academy (Ill.), 12-0
Joliet Catholic gets a couple weeks' worth of league play before taking on one of Florida's top teams, Nova, on Jan. 18.17. (17) St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.), 9-3
The Rams are on a long break before league play – but then will host Southern California powers Windward and Etiwanda over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.
18. (18) Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.), 8-2
Riverdale Baptist, like many Xcellent 25 teams, is much better than its local opponents, so the next test will be when the Crusaders host Quest Preparatory out of Nevada on Jan. 17.19. (19) Myers Park (Charlotte, N.C.), 12-1
Myers Park beat a good young Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) team in the first round of the Naples Holiday Classic, lost to No. 3 Blackman in the semis by 12 and then handled one of D.C.'s best, Paul VI, for third place. That's the kind of schedule that teams wanting national respect should play.
20. (20) Horn Lake (Miss.), 15-0
Not much of a challenge this week for Horn Lake, which is losing a little luster because its signature win over Shades Valley isn't looking as good since Shades Valley just lost two in a row.21. (21) Northside (Fort Smith, Ark.), 11-1
Mt. St. Mary and Russellville seem unlikely to mount a challenge to Northside, though there are some league teams down the road who might make Northside work pretty hard for a win.22. (22) Desert Vista (Phoenix), 13-0
Desert Vista should ease through this week but always tough Hamilton is on tap next Monday – at Hamilton.23. (23) Sparkman (Harvest, Ala.), 18-2
Buckhorn should be no problem Friday, but Lee will be more of a challenge Jan. 14. Still, the next real challenge for Sparkman will most likely come in the postseason.24. (24) Manvel (Texas), 22-2
Only one team in Manvel's league has a winning record – and Manvel will play Pearland Jan. 14. The next two games, though, should comfortably land in the win column.25. (25) Princess Anne (Virginia Beach, Va.), 10-0
Like Manvel, Princess Anne has a couple easy games before drawing a tough league opponent (Maury) Jan. 14.Dropped out: