SPRINGFIELD – The Ava Bears are in the midst of one of the roughest seasons in school history as their losing streak extended to seven games following a 57-21 loss to Logan-Rogersville in the first round of the 77th Annual Blue and Gold Tournament and a 57-22 loss to Willard in the second round.
The Bears are just 1-8 after Monday’s and Tuesday’s losses and are currently hold the lowest offensive average school record with just 31.67 points per game. If sustained, it would break the 1999-2000 offensive average of 39.1 PPG under Coach Matt Moulder when Ava went 1-22.
Ava’s offense has struggled this year, evident against Reeds Spring on December 16 where the Bears scored just 16 points and set that new spot in the books.
Monday’s and Tuesday’s games were no exception with the Bears scoring no field goals against the Wildcats in the second half and just two in the second half against Willard.
Logan-Rogersville is not a larger school with a deeper student body to pick and choose from, either. In fact, they share Class 4 District 11 with the Ava Bears and are now 9-0 and headed to the Blue and Gold semifinals after topping Lebanon 61-28 Tuesday night.
The Wildcats were led by Curry Sutherland and Hayden Sirey on Monday, scoring 17 points and 15 points respectively.
Sutherland was the inside player with five buckets and four trips to the stripe through four quarters. On the arc they had Sirey with three big looks and a major player in the Wildcats’ third quarter routing of the Bears.
The game did not start with an immediate wallop from the Wildcats, though.
Ava held on and trailed by just a bucket at the first horn under the lights of Great Southern Bank Arena on the Missouri State University campus.
The Wildcats went up by four out of the gate but were answered by Isaac Dalton with a shot from inside the paint with 4:33 left. Sirey clapped back with his first triple of the evening, but Ashton Stout managed his way inside for a bucket to keep the Bears in striking distance.
The first quarter ended with Dalton hitting the bucket on a layup and drawing the and-one foul call against the Wildcats. He completed the three-point play and was followed up by a defensive stop and Devon Sawyer scoring one to get the last word before the end of the opening quarter.
The Wildcats had racked up five fouls despite conservative play on the court, but the gloves came off in dramatic fashion in the second quarter with six points on the board after the initial inbound.
Turnovers didn’t help the Bears, either. Ava had the ball forced over a total of 22 times Monday evening and seven of those came up in the second quarter as the Wildcats feasted on transition buckets; Logan Rogersville had ransacked the Ava defense scoring 19-7.
The Wildcats had pulled ahead 30-16 by halftime and the worst was yet to come in the second half.
Sutherland was, arguably, the big target to defend after putting up 14 in the first two quarters but the Wildcat roster had depth in terms of shooters. Sirey started opening up on the Bears from the perimeter with back-to-back triples in a 12-point run against Ava in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
Buckets were coming in from across the Logan-Rogersville bench with six different players putting points on the board. The Bears offense was stopped dead at times as Wildcat center Keegan Daniels showed his ability to plant feet and become an instant tree in the way of anyone attempting the drive to the steel.
The Bears were penniless after the 20-3 third quarter with their only answers coming by aid of the whistle. Ava’s defense was speed-bagged into a 31-point deficit at the end of the third quarter thanks largely to the double-digit run coming out of the break.
The field goal drought dragged on into the fourth quarter as the Bears were held to just five points in the entire 16 minutes after the break. All five were from the charity stripe, where the Bears did improve to 75-percent shooting for nine points.
The Bears slid left on the bracket, moving to the Hammons Student Center on Tuesday to play Willard.
Willard had put up the good fight against Lebanon on Monday and had the 30-21 lead at the halftime break but the Yellow Jackets stung back and got the stop with a defensive rebound in the final seconds of the game for the win.
The Tigers know the trials of a rough season and came into Tuesday’s match at 1-8. Their shooters didn’t hold back though and worked methodically through the Ava defense to force turnovers and hit a whopping nine triples against the Bears.
The Bears didn’t have a quarter to enjoy and were put back 17-7 in the first eight minutes despite a five-point rally by Payton Merriett and Dalton who both hit buckets; Dalton drew a foul on the shot for the three-point play.
Mahan came up with a bucket with 2:51 remaining to tie the game at seven each. After that the Tigers took off on a ten-point blitz to the first buzzer with Cooper Wilken and Braxton Boyer at the helm.
The pair didn’t let off the gas in the second quarter, either. Wilken led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points with Boyer in-tow making 11.
The second quarter really split the game with the Tigers outscoring the Bears, 18-7, thanks to four triples from the Willard offense.
Ashton Stout hit his second triple of the season, but the answer was drowned by a second ten-point run by the Tigers, who then led 30-11. Dalton came up with another three from the corner, but the bell was already ringing for the Bears.
At the break the Tigers were up, 35-14.
Dalton had the only field goal of the third quarter and Devon Sawyer hit one of his free throws to muster up three points.
On the other side of the court Wilken hit hard with eight points which included a pair of back-to-back triples making up the bulk of an 11-point run on the Bears.
With the Bears on the receiving end of three double-digit runs there was no comeback with the scoreboard leading for Willard, 48-17.
Sawyer hit his second triple of the season in the fourth quarter, but it was drowned out by the offensive onslaught brought by the Tigers in the previous three quarters.
At the end of regulation, the Bears were put away 57-22 in their third-lowest offensive performance of the year.
At the end of 2022 the Bears have 285 points in their name including 90 buckets inside and another 18 from beyond the arc. The Bears are shooting a collective .520 from the stripe with 51 points shot on fouls while giving up 65 points to opponents from fouls of their own.
Ava has the New Year break to regroup and will host Wright County rival, the Mansfield Lions on January 3, 2023. The Lions are 9-0 as of December 27 and average 67.9 PPG so far this season.