Lady Bears Basketball Preview

Doug Berger/Herald Ava Lady Bears break down court in practice session.

The Ava Lady Bears have two returning starters from the team that posted a 17-10 record last season. Seven letterman return to the team. 

The Lady Bears return their top two scorers, Hannah Evans (14 points per game) and Olivia Gastineau (10 points per game). 

Doug Berger/Herald
Ava Lady Bears basketball coach Nathan Houk works with this year’s squad during a practice session.

“Hannah has a strong work ethic, a desire to win and is a great teammate. Her ability to score from different areas of the floor and defend has allowed her to achieve success as an underclassman. Hannah needs to keep improving each day in practice. As an upperclassman, I expect her to be a vocal leader for our team. Her hustle and hard play inspires the younger players. Defensively, she may have to guard the post some or out on the perimeter. Her length, speed and toughness allow her to defend wherever we need her. Offensively, I expect her to play out on the perimeter more for us. She has great range and ball handling skills,” Lady Bears Coach Nathan Houk stated.

This is Houk’s fifth year coaching the Lady Bears.

Gastineau will run the point for the Lady Bears.

“Her skill level from every aspect and confidence have really improved over the summer. As a freshman, there were times she was unsure or hesitated when making a play. From the summer on, I have seen her play with a lot more confidence. As the point guard, her overall leadership has made improvements going into her sophomore year. Olivia sees the floor really well and does a nice job of sharing the ball with her teammates. Olivia also does a nice job of finishing at the basket,” Houk said.

Ava lost three starters from last years’ team. Claire Fossett played post and averaged seven points per game and five rebounds. Eden Little played point guard with a six point average. Emaly Keyes led the team in three point shooting.

“We need to stay focused on improving our fundamentals each day in practice. Continuous gelling as a team and peaking at the right time is key to competing. We have a young, but talented team. Our starting lineup will consist of sophomores and juniors. We’ve made improvements, but haven’t reached all the goals we have set for our team,” Lady Bears Coach Nathan Houk stated.

Houk looks to Baylan Alexander, Keeley Akers, Celia Fossett, Lexie Gastineau and Sara Mendel to step up and be competing for the starting line up. 

…Alexander is a junior post player. 

“Baylan is a tough defender/rebounder who can score on the post. Baylan can do a little bit of everything, and as an upperclassman, she will be a nice lead by example player for the younger players,” Houk stated.

…Keeley Akers, is a sophomore post player, which Houk says has good instincts around the basket.

“She always finds a way to score and runs the floor well. Keeley’s athleticism makes her a valuable player on both ends of the floor.”

…Celia Fossett, is another sophomore player.

“She is a really good defender, who can make three’s and score in transition. Celia’s speed and athleticism will keep her on the floor a lot. She will be one of our shut down defenders,” Houk added.

…Lexie Gastineau, a sophomore and Olivia’s twin.

“She plays guard for us. Defends well, has good ball handling and passing skills and nice outside shot. Lexie is quick off the dribble and tough to guard.”

…Sara Mendel, a six foot one inch sophomore power forward.

“She has really improved since last season. Sara can score in the post or knock down the three point shot. Her length and skill allow her to be a real difference maker for our team.” 

Houk anticipates the team strength this year will be speed and team chemistry.

“We want to be a really strong defensive minded team. We want to be able to use our defense to generate some of our offense. On the offensive side of the ball, we want to push the tempo and try to score in transition. If a lay-up or easy shot doesn’t present itself, we want to run our offense, exercise patience and get the shot we want,” Houk said.

Houk anticipates Liberty, Thayer and Salem will be top teams the Lady Bears will match up against in the South Central Association conference.

The Lady Bears are scheduled to open play at the Rogersville Jamboree on Thursday, Nov. 19. At 5 p.m. Ava will face Kickapoo in the auxiliary gym. At 5:30 p.m. the Lady Bears will face Logan-Rogersville in the main gym. The final Ava game will be played at 6 p.m. in the auxiliary gym with the Lady Bears facing Republic. 

Each session will consist of two quarters of six minutes. They will keep a rolling schedule, whenever everyone is ready they will start the next session. 

The Lady Bears will place their first two regular season games out of town. They will travel to Hollister on November 24 and Seymour on December 3. They will participated in the Ozark Lady Classic on December 9-12. Ava will begin play on Wednesday, Dec. 9, facing Central at 6 p.m. at the Ozark High School auxiliary gym. The Lady Bears second game of the tournament will be held on December 11 at 6 p.m. when they face Parkview in the auxiliary gym. Ava will finish out the tournament on December 12 with a game at 11 a.m. at the auxiliary gym facing the Ozark junior varsity.

The Lady Bears will play their first home game on December 14 against Sparta.