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The Ava Middle School girls basketball squad has started their season off well.
The eighth grade squad has a record of 2-2 after four games, while the seventh grade squad has a record of 3-1 after four games.
The eighth grade squad started their season off with the Mountain Grove Tournament.
During their first tournament game against Mountain Grove, Ava was down 15-7 in the first half, before scoring 22 points in the second and losing a heartbreaker by a score of 31-29.
Callie Eubanks led Ava with 16 points, followed by Ashlee Helm (7), Destiny Sparnicht (3), Lakota Blakey (2), and Misty Regennitter (1).
“The girls were very nervous in the first half, but they settled down the second half and almost beat a very good Mtn. Grove team,” said Coach Justin Gilmore.
“We didn’t score very many points in the first half, so we couldn’t get into our press and create turnovers. The second half, we started scoring and our press created many turnovers and easy buckets. The girls gave a very good defensive effort in the second half.”
Ava won their second game of the season in the Mtn. Grove Tournament by a score of 38-34 against Houston.
Lakota Blakey, Callie Eubanks, and Ashley Helm all scored in the double digits. Brandee Cutbirth, Tailer Stofer, and Destiny Sparnicht also scored 2 points each.
“The girls ran the press very well which led to easy points on the other end, but our press also gave up some easy points on the backside,” Gilmore said. “We are doing a better job of running our press and scoring on turnovers.”
He added that the team is still learning how to get back on defense once the press is broke.
“I am pleased with our effort, but we still have a long way to go,” he said.
Ava had a chance to win a consolation match against Cabool on Friday but they fell short by a score of 37-24.
Destiny Sparnicht led Ava in scoring with 8 points, followed by Lakota Blakey and Callie Eubanks with 6 points each and Brandee Cutbirth and Tailer Stofer with 2 points each.
“The girls were not ready to play when they stepped on the floor against Cabool, and that was very evident in the outcome,” Gilmore said. “Emily Patton, Amber Beverlin, Megan Cooper, Misty Regennitter, and Tailer Stofer all went in the game and gave an excellent effort and cut into Cabool’s lead.
“Hopefully, this game was an eye opener and we realize that we are going to need an excellent effort every game to have a chance to win.
Ava traveled to West Plains on November 16 and won their game by a score of 27-19 against the Zizzers.
The girls overcame a 10-14 deficit at half-time and won by 8. Callie Eubanks led the scoring with 13 points, followed by Destiny Sparnicht (12), and Tailer Stofer (2).
“The girls came out and played a good second half, but they are having trouble finding a way to win in the first half,” Gilmore said. “We have been behind at half in every game played this year.
“We need to start games with a sense of urgency instead of having to finish games that way. Tailer Stofer came in off the bench and played excellent defense, helping us go on a second half run.”
Ava’s win improves their record to 2-2 on the season with a game at Reeds Spring on Thursday, November 18.
The seventh grade girls started the year off with a great win over Mtn. Grove by a score of 24-2.
Jacey Swofford led the team scoring 12 points, followed by Bailey Loge and Hope Evans with 6 points each.
“The girls were very nervous in the first half only scoring 8 points, but they worked out the jitters in the second half and scored 16.” Gilmore said. “The girls played hard and gave a wonderful effort for their first game.”
The girls might have felt a little too good about their big win over Mtn. Grove, because they didn’t come to play against Houston, coaches said.
“We developed some bad habits against Mtn. Grove that carried over into the game against Houston. We didn’t block out and we played as individuals instead of a team,” Gilmore said. “We were very capable of winning against Houston but we were outplayed.”
Houston scored 20 points to Ava’s 18.
Bailey Loge led Ava’s scoring with 8 points, followed by Jacey Swofford (5), Caley Wallace (3), and Hope Evans (2).
Ava seventh grade played for third place in the Mtn. Grove Tournament on Friday, November 12 and came out with a win.
“The girls gave a much better defensive and offensive effort against Thayer and they were rewarded with a win,” Gilmore said. “The girls are beginning to understand the level of effort I demand and their hard work is paying off.”
Ava seventh grade traveled to West Plains in pursuit of a win and they got one, improving their record to 3-1.
“The girls executed our plays and were rewarded with a big win,” Gilmore said.
Ava defeated West Plains by a score of 30-4.
“The girls are beginning to rebound and play better defense,” Gilmore said. “We are still learning how to play as a team, but we are getting much better.”
Jacey Swofford led all scores with 12 points, Hope Evans had 10 points, followed by Hunter Shelton, Kendra Walker, Bailey Loge, and Keeley Deal all with 2 points.
“Hope Evans did an excellent job of posting up and Hunter Shelton did a great job of getting her the ball for 10 easy points,” Gilmore said. “We are beginning to look better in our press, but it is a work in progress.
“The girls are starting to see some success and if they will continue to work hard, they will be tough to beat.”