The Andale boys have lost two of their first three basketball games in the final minutes — and nearly lost the third the same way — despite playing well for the majority of those games.
Coach Jeff Buchanan wants that fixed. But the solution won't come during a timeout or in the locker room after the game.
It comes through practice, which coaches consider the lifeblood of success.
"We'll keep putting them in the same situations, trying to mimic it in practice, always trying to simulate the situations they'll see in the game in practice so they'll know how to react," Buchanan said."...But whatever you spend the most time on, you'll have other areas that are weak. It's finding the balance."
Former Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson once sardonically questioned the importance of practice. Coaches won't do that.
"I think practice is the most important part of the season, as far as the development of the young men we're responsible for," Heights boys coach Joe Auer said. "That's where all that takes place. The games are for fun, they are our reward for practice."
While most coaches have detailed practice plans, accounting for every minute of the approximately two-hour practices, they vary on their approaches. McPherson boys coach Kurt Kinnamon refuses to extend a drill past the scheduled time, even if it's a disaster, although he will cut short a well-done drill.
Goddard boys coach Steve Blue doesn't stray much from previous seasons' practice plans and practice speeches. And he never has his players shoot more than 20 free throws a practice.
With an inexperienced team, Derby girls coach Jessica Fuller focuses on the fundamentals, on breaking down every aspect so it can be learned easily.
It would be understandable if Buchanan focused practices solely on finishing strong. But Andale's practices on Wednesday and Thursday also included fundamentals, scrimmaging and a plan to beat Circle tonight.
"We take practice serious every day," Andale senior Austin Meyer said."... I know everyone will come and play their hardest because they're looking to get better every day."
Repetition on a variety of aspects is the key.
Andover Central wrestling coach Terry Alley knows his wrestlers can't hear his instruction during a dual. Even though he's yelling.
"I'm relieving my stress," Alley said. "The things you try to communicate to them is during the week, and that's what sticks to them in the back of their minds."
Practices start in the offseason. It could be through conditioning, pick-up games, weightlifting, working on fundamentals. Once the season starts, shooting practice primarily is on the player's own time, while practices are more technical.
Circle girls coach Brian Henry relies heavily on his assistants to make sure his athletes quickly and thoroughly understand what they're being taught,
"Any drill that has individual aspects, we will split up into four or five groups, limiting the size so we get more hands-on instruction," Henry said.
That instruction is crucial. Coaches don't like to see kids standing around watching; it's better to be doing, rather than watching.
But every athlete learns in a different manner, and coaches must learning how to teach each one.
"Some are very visual, some are verbal, others are a combination," Auer said. "Some get embarrassed very easily and are very sensitive and others have very thick skin. It's one of the things that makes the job."
Coaches work to keep practices fresh, often lightening the mood by running a well-liked drill or scrimmaging, always a favorite.
But dreading practice is normal.
Alley encountered such an issue with his athletes, and he understood. Wrestling can be a grind.
When the Jaguars won the Goodwell, Okla., tournament, though, they saw the payoff of their work.
"That's where you keep the focus, the reward at the end," Alley said.