By Jason Hoekema / email@example.com
Monday was a big win for the Ava Lady Bears who topped Mountain Grove, 60-38, to usher in the new year with a record of 6-1. However, the Lady Bears fell short to Forsyth scoring 47-43 Tuesday night.
Shaking off rust
The Lady Bears came up with a whopping, 31-20, first half over the Lady Panthers but that lead wasn’t looking like it would come about in the first minutes of the game.
The Lady Bears have been out of the competitive loop over the holiday break but have practiced and showed on the court and in their shooting after regaining their game-time bearing.
“It was a good game and we played well – played hard,” said head coach Nathan Houk. “I was happy to come out and get our first SCA win.”
The Lady Panthers were able to shutout Ava 3-0 before Hanna Evans came up with a three to tie the game up. That shot was quickly answered with another long ball from Reagan Hoerning to cut the knot before the Lady Panthers went up 8-3 on the Lady Bears.
Baylan Alexander was in the starting five Monday and played for nine points against Mountain Grove. Two buckets in the first helped get things going for Ava before they broke ahead on a nine-point run to end the first.
The Lady Bears managed 18 points with plenty of outside shooting to take some of the wind out of Mountain Grove’s sails early before Ava kept them under ten in the next three quarters.
Raining threes, halleluiah
The Lady Bears were deadly from the outside with six three-point shots between Hanna Evans and her protégé freshman, Olivia Gastineau.
With the Lady Panthers driven by the post with a tall player in Alisha Condos ball motion found its way outside the perimeter with Evans hitting four from outside at a consistent pace of one each quarter.
Gastineau was the spark that ignited Ava in the first with back-to-back threes to kick off the nine-point run in the first.
Size doesn’t matter
Claire Fossett had her hands full Monday guarding Condos in the post. The Lady Panther put up 12 of her team’s points opening the first and second quarters.
Fossett ended up in some foul trouble in the middle of the third, giving up three personal fouls on the floor which kept Mountain Grove from taking Ava to the bank. With 1:49 left in the third, she was one away from the bench.
Condos had close to six inches on Fossett and was the main target for the Lady Panther offense. Interestingly, she was unable to draw a foul on any shot as Fossett aggressively guarded and kept her play under the steel in check.
“Claire did a really good job on (Condos) keeping her from catching,” said Houk. “She picked up some fouls, but you’ve got to play physical (against a player like that). Claire did an excellent job on her. Then when (Baylan Alexander) got matched up with her, she did a really good job, too.”
The Lady Panthers gave up a total of 14 fouls Monday and six of them resulted in trips to the charity stripe for Gastineau, Alexander and Evans.
The three shot a collective .818 from the stripe with Evans taking advantage of the one-and-one attempts while Gastineau pulled the three-point-play from Trinity Elliot in the third as the Lady Bears ran away with the game.
17 buckets made it through with Olivia Gastineau sinking five plus four apiece from Fossett and Alexander.
Many of the buckets came by way of ball motion into the post where Alexander did well for nine points.
Meanwhile Eden Little was running full-court pressure on the Lady Panthers highlighting her efforts with a dive into the student section for a successful boundary save.
Cutting them off
The Lady Bears found much success on defense, forcing several turnovers and even getting the five-second whistle on an inbound pass to take over in the third where the Lady Bears racked up 20 points.
The frequent possession on fast breaks and secondaries allowed Alexander and Fossett to each sink two from inside while Gastineau lit up the Lady Panther defense with drives for three buckets while Evans chipped a chunk out of the defense with one from the arc.
The man-to-man coverage stopped the short passes and handoffs while the Lady Panthers attempted the dribble drive to try on open up the lane or a pocket pass to their post.
“We knew that if they were going to beat us, they were going to have to go inside a lot and play,” said Houk. “So, we tried to put as much pressure on their guards as we could to keep them from catching (the ball). When they brought Condos (we worked) on adjusting and trying to use our speed and quickness to not allow them to advance the ball up the floor with the pass.”
Ava’s triangle offense picked up several buckets including an assist by Fossett for two by Alexander after the ball came full circle around the arc.
Tuesday brought with it a few frustrations as well as a bit of exhaustion from the back-and-forth-and-back-again full court pressure used to earn the Lady Bears their first SCA game of the season.
In several cases, officiating injected itself into the game with whistle blowers missing a few obvious fouls including ones which should have gone in favor of the Lady Panthers.
One blown call stood out, a three-point attempt from Emaly Keyes with literally seconds to spare.
An audible groan was heard inside the gym as fans and parents expressed their frustration with what could-have been a tying opportunity at the charity stripe.
Keyes has yet to make an appearance at the top of the keyhole this season. With nine three-pointers with her name on them, free-throw opportunities would have been a welcome call for Ava supporters.
Nevertheless, the Lady Bears had the – albeit thin – lead going into the break leading the Lady Panthers 23-22 and held the lead for three quarters.
Last year the Lady Bears fell to the Lady Panthers in a nearly identical fashion. In both games the Lady Bears lost the lead late in the game. Last year a 20-3 third quarter sunk Ava.
With Tuesday’s loss, the Lady Bears are now on a six-game losing streak to the Highway 76 rival.
Fouls caught Ava early into the first half and pulled Olivia Gastineau and Hanna Evans back to the bench in the final minutes of Tuesday’s game.
Claire Fossett was the first to three with 1:56 left in the first half but only one whistle went against her on the shot, a defensive foul drawn by Forsyth’s Emily Shipman.
Shipman toed the line Tuesday and hit nine of her 12 opportunities to lead the Lady Panthers in 16 collective points while the team shot a .640 from the line.
Ava’s shooting percentage sat at .722 nearly making up the extras made by Shipman.
Both Ava basketball coaches have faced the “T” while advocating for their players. Houk got under one official’s skin after multiple shooters were fouled on the steel without a whistle to help.
“(In the) fourth quarter we got a little bit of foul trouble and we got a little more patient on offense,” said Houk. But we got shots and free throws in the fourth quarter and didn’t put them in the basket. I really feel like if (we made) a few more of those they (would have) never got the lead and we would probably go away and win the game.”
The Lady Bears are under full-court pressure this week with four games in seven days resting Wednesday and Friday.
The full-court pressure applied to the Lady Panthers on Monday drained some of the legwork away from the Lady Bears. Without fresh legs, shooting percentages can suffer.
The exhaustion was apparent in the fourth with Gastineau making one bucket and Eden Little another on a breakaway. The other seven of 11 fourth quarter points were made at the line.
“I was really worried about that because we played Monday,” said Houk. “We pressed for three quarters last night against Mountain Grove, I was worried about coming out and being flat.”
Turnovers and tumbles
The girls played with plenty of heart, Lexie Gastineau finding the student section on a save attempt while Little slid across the maple more than once in attempts to keep the possession alive for Ava.
The Lady Bears found trouble in the Lady Panther defense. On multiple occasions steals were made by Shipman and guard Calley Matthews as the team attempted to use motion to swing the ball around and into the post for buckets.
Claire Fosset picked up two plus the three-point-play after drawing a foul from Shipman under the net. Other situations were not as successful, resulting in the ball going the other way as the Lady Panthers made several points while in transition.
“That was (Forsyth’s) first game back from break,” said Houk. “We played last night and it’s tough to prepare for a team when you don’t have a practice to get ready
Four buckets late in the fourth are what really decided the game outcome after Kaylee Henning hit the net to bring the Lady Panthers back within one.
Then when the Lady Bears left Scarlett Texeira open for the cross-court pass or breakaway, she came up with the go ahead and opened the lead to four with another bucket with 1:23 left and before the game ended at the free throw lines.
“I felt like we just didn’t execute in the fourth quarter,” said Houk. “We got to the line and we got some just good open shots but didn’t put them in the basket.”
The Lady Bears move on at 6-1 and will play the Mansfield Lady Lions today at home while the boys squad resumes play on Friday against Hollister, also at the home court.