Basketball season will open next week for the Ava Bears and Lady Bears.
Both teams will open on the road with the boys playing Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Spokane, and the girls playing their first game Thursday night, Dec. 5, at Seymour.
The boys and girls teams participated in a basketball jamboree on Nov. 22 and 23 at Sparta, and coaches of both teams felt their squads performed well against the opposition.
The Lady Bears are adjusting well to new head coach Alyssa Paulsell who moved to Ava during the summer from Hollister.
A native of Ozark where she played on a state championship team, Paulsell describes herself as a “fundamentals coach”, focusing heavily on defense.
Following play in the jamboree last Friday night where Ava played teams from Sparta, Chadwick and Bakersfield, Paulsell said she was happy with the team’s performance.
Boys’ head coach Nathan Houk was likewise pleased with the way his team performed in the jamboree on Saturday night. The Bears opened with Sparta and Houk said the Trojans “were a good test for us.” He said he was “pleased how we handled them.”
Coach Paulsell said the Lady Bears will definitely use their size advantage against other teams.
Senior Maison Bovard at 6-foot-plus, and sophomores Hope Evans (6’0″) and Jacey Swofford (5’9″), along with junior Maranda Yost (5’11″) and junior MaKenna Hunsaker at about 5’10″ will compliment the guard play of senior Bailey Lee, and juniors Callie Eubanks and Lakota Blakey.
Senior Shelby Campbell also returns with varsity experience for the Lady Bears.
After opening with Seymour, the Lady Bears will move into the Cabool Tournament the week of Dec. 9-14.
Coach Paulsell is not particularly happy with the No. 6 seed in that tournament, but realizes that “as the new kid on the block” she has to prove herself as a coach in this area.
Ava will play No. 3 Salem in the first round on Monday, Dec. 9. It will be Ava’s goal to knock off the SCA rival and advance through the winners bracket of the tournament.
Ava’s boys will play two games before entering the Mansfield Tournament the same week. After Spokane on Tuesday, the Bears will play Mansfield on Dec. 6 in the Mansfield gym.
The Bears drew the No. 2 seed in the Lions’ tournament, behind Gainesville which returns four starters this year.
The Bears, too, will utilize good size with 6-foot-3 junior center Tristan Haltom and 6’4″ freshman Anthony Rosas at center.
Also returning are seniors Ben Loge, Brandon Guengerich, Seth Dobbs and Cooper Emerich, as well as juniors John Luebbering and Shannon Porter. Sophomores Chase Gastineau and Morgan Smith round out the preseason roster.
Neither the Bears nor the Lady Bears will play at home until the middle of December.
The first home game for the Ava boys will be Dec. 17 against Hartville. For the girls, the first home game will be Dec. 19 with Rogersville.