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The Ava Bears won two games in the Springfield Blue and Gold Tournament this week and were playing top-seed Glendale in the semifinals Wednesday night.
The Bears opened with Greenwood Monday afternoon and came away with a 60-51 win.
On Tuesday evening, the No. 5 Bears upset No. 4 Strafford, 58-50, to advance to the semifinals of the Gold Division of the Springfield holiday tournament.
Tournament finals will be played at 8:30 tonight (Thursday) in the JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University.
The third place game will be played at 5:30 at the JQH.
After trailing Greenwood 17-13 after one quarter of play in the 12:30 game Monday afternoon at the JQH, the Bears took a 28-27 lead at halftime.
Ava pulled out to a double-digit lead in the second half, but turnovers in the late going saw that lead trimmed to three points with under a minute left.
With Greenwood feeling they had to foul to have a chance, Ava free throw shooting came through.
Trae Shelton was perfect at the line on four attempts in the final 40 seconds of the game, and Austin Gastineau was 2-for-2 at the line to seal Ava’s win.
Shelton finished with 15 points as did Pete Leonard who also had 14 rebounds for the Bears.
Brock Mitchell added 12 points and Austin Clayton had 11.
Rounding out the Ava scoring were Zach Leonard 4 points and Kevin Philpott, 1, along with Gastineau’s two free throws.
Hawken Thieme led all scorers with 23 points for Greenwood.
Ava trailed Strafford 29-22 in the second quarter Tuesday night at the Hammons Student Center, but as the half came to an end, senior guard Brock Mitchell rattled a half-court shot off the backboard for a 3-point bucket to pull the Bears within one, 29-28.
Strafford went back up by four, 48-44, with 5 minutes left, but the Bears came through in the see-saw battle to take the lead for good with just over 2 minutes left, and went on to win by the final margin of 58-50.
Mitchell finished with 16 points on the night, and Pete Leonard took scoring honors with 19 points.
Shelton added 10 points, Clayton 3, and Philpott 2.
Conner Wilson led Strafford with 9 points.
Looking past New Year’s Day, the Bears will be back in regular season play on Friday night, Jan. 7, at home against Marion C. Early (Morrisville). That is scheduled as a 3-game affair, starting with the freshmen at 5 o’clock.
Ava’s freshmen will also play at home Jan. 4 vs. West Plains.