CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The fun and games are over.
Well, the contests are still plentiful as the sectional tournaments begin in earnest around the state this week - a few started Friday and Saturday - but only sharp focus and crisp execution will do now with finality in the air.
George Washington was hoping to get a boost from playing for its third Mountain State Athletic Conference championship in four years during Saturday's Night of Champions at the South Charleston Community Center, but came up short again, falling 72-51 to Huntington.
Now GW must shift gears on the fly and put that disappointment behind it in a hurry as the postseason looms on the horizon.
"Our kids are pretty resilient,'' said Patriots coach Jamie LaMaster. "My kids have a tendency to bounce back pretty strong. This was a great experience, we won the East [Division] and that's all great, but now we need to move our mindset to sectional play.
"For us, that's the beginning of state tournament play. Starting next week it's win or go home. After Monday, there'll be a lot of teams not playing basketball. We don't want to be one of those teams. I think they'll respond.''
The Patriots (14-8), who were eighth in last week's Class AAA Associated Press poll, have been ranked all season. After up-and-down play (6-4 record) through the first 10 games, GW reeled off six straight wins and eight victories in its last 12 games against the likes of state-ranked Preston, Parkersburg South (twice), Greenbrier East (No. 1 and undefeated), Princeton and Huntington.
"This has been a pretty tough stretch at the end,'' said LaMaster. "The tougher schedule is going to get you ready. That can go one of two ways.
"You can beat [your players] down getting ready, but I think in our case with the experience and where we've been the last few years, it'll help us and get us ready.''
LaMaster's bunch has nearly seen it all the past two seasons as they've advanced to the state tournament semifinals.