Ava finished 7-0 in conference play.
The Bears also took an exciting 48-45 overtime win from Seymour on the road Monday night.
Austin Gastineau scored nine of his 18 points at Houston last Friday night in the third period, with most of the points coming off Ava’s defense.
The Bears defeated the Tigers 61-39 to claim the undisputed conference championship.
Ava jumped on Houston early, taking a 17-8 first-quarter lead. The Tigers picked up their scoring in the second quarter, but Ava still held a 31-21 lead at the half.
The Bears picked up the intensity on defense in the third period and outscored the Tigers 18-4. “It’s always nice to get easy baskets with your defense,” Coach Nathan Houk commented.
In addition to Gastineau’s 18 points, Ava had three other players score in double figures, with Ben Loge, Zach Leonard and Kevin Philpott each scoring 12. Dexter Fish and Cooper Emerich each had a basket and Kody Kutz and Chase Dixon had one point each.
“I felt like our defense really came through,” Coach Houk said. “Chase Dixon and Austin Gastineau applied great pressure on the perimeter and Zach (Leonard) and Kevin (Philpott) helped control the boards. We were able to contest their 3-point shots and limit them to one shot most of the time,” Houk added.
Winning the SCA is a tremendous accomplishment for this Ava Bears team, considering they were picked to finish fifth or sixth in the preseason.
Coach Houk said this is only the fifth time Ava has won the SCA and the third time to win it outright.
The 7-0 Bears returned one starter and the sixth man from last season, in Coach Houk’s first season as head coach.
The Bears got off to a slow start Monday night at Seymour, scoring only 13 points in the first half.
“I thought there was a lid on the basket for the first few minutes of the first quarter,” Coach Houk said.
Fortunately for Ava, the Bears defense was able to hold the opponent to only 17 first-half points.
Ava’s offense picked it up in the third quarter, outscoring the Tigers 15-11 and tying the game after three.
The fourth quarter was back and forth, with the Bears having ample opportunity to win the game. But 3-for-13 free throw shooting in the fourth quarter (5-for-17 on the night) held the Bears back.
“Shooting like that, we were lucky just to get it to overtime,” Houk said.
The Bears were down 41-38 with 10 seconds left in regulation.
“We came out of a time out and ran a play for Zach to get a 3-point shot. He was able to get the shot off – the ball must have hit the rim five or six times before it finally fell,” Houk said.
Although Leonard is credited with the shot that sent the game to OT, Houk said three big 3-point baskets by Kutz kept the Bears in the game. “It seemed like he always hit a shot when we needed it the most,” Houk said.
In the overtime period, a big 3-point basket from Loge and a baseline jumper from Gastineau got Ava the lead, and subsequently, the win.
Coach Houk pointed out the importance of this win, with the Tigers being the No. 1 seed in the district tournament that starts next week.
“Beating them at their place gives our kids a lot of confidence at the right time of the year.
Stats for Ava at Seymour: Gastineau 17 points, 4 steals, 2 assists and 2 rebounds; Loge 13 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals; Kutz 9 points and 2 rebounds; Leonard 6 points and 11 rebounds; Philpott 3 points and 4 rebounds; and Chase Dixon, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist.