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Facing Charleston, from southeast Missouri in state sectional play last week, the Bears overcame a 20-point halftime deficit to pull within one point of the Bluejays with 17 seconds left on the clock.
But Charleston held on to win, 70-68, in the game played at the West Plains Civic Center.
Charleston shot the lights out in the first half, hitting eight of the 10 3-point baskets they would make in the game, and taking a 46-26 lead at the half.
The Bears came roaring back in the second half, outscoring Charleston 25-9 in the fourth quarter, and had a chance to win in the final seconds of the contest.
With 1:08 left, Ava senior Trae Shelton drove in for a lay-up to put Ava within striking distance at 69-62. Junior Zach Leonard then canned a 3-point basket with 45 seconds left to make it 69-65, and with 17 ticks left on the clock, senior Brock Mitchell nailed a 3-pointer to make it 69-68.
Charleston’s Ryan Parham went to the line and made the front end of a one-and-one to extend the lead to 70-68, which would be the final.
Mitchell attempted the potential winning shot with less than 6 seconds on the clock, but it was blocked, ending the Bears’ season at 22-7.
Charleston’s Gregory Tucker scored 20 points in the first half and led all scorers with 25 points in the game. Tucker had six 3-point baskets in the first half.
Jamaul Gray added 21 for the Bluejays.
Pete Leonard, who finished the season with 1,744 career points to shatter the previous scoring record, had 21 points for the Bears last Wednesday night. That brought his season total up to 755, which is also a new record for Ava High School.
Pete’s brother, Zach Leonard, added 14 points and Austin Clayton was also in double figures with 10.
Mitchell and Austin Gastineau had seven points each for Ava, Shelton had five, and sophomore Austin Casey came off the bench to score four points for the Bears.
Shelton made 78 3-point baskets this season, bringing his record-setting total up to 142 for the career.
Another mark Coach Cole Dishman remarked about at the Winter Athletic Banquet Monday night is Zach Leonard’s 38 charges taken this season.
The Ava boys averaged almost 66 points per game this season while allowing an average of under 53 points per game, a 13-point difference.
With Pete Leonard, Mitchell, Shelton and Clayton all leaving via graduation, Coach Dishman is already thinking about next season, and contemplating strategy for filling the void.