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The Ava High School Bears only played one game this week, falling in non-conference action to Morrisville on the road last Friday night, 48-43.
After trailing 19-7 at the end of the first quarter, the Bears reduced the lead to 23-18 at halftime.
“The third quarter was our downfall”, Coach Nathan Houk said. Marion C. Early outscored the Bears 12-5 in that third period.
Down 15 points going into the fourth quarter, the Bears fought back to get within one point but could never take the lead. In the meantime, Marion C. Early hit their free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
Still, Ava managed to outscore the opponents 20-10 in the final period of play.
Zach Leonard had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears and Austin Gastineau scored 15 points with three rebounds and three assists.
Leonard had two assists and four steals for Ava.
Kevin Philpott had five points and six rebounds, and Ben Loge and Chase Dixon had two points apiece for the Bears.
Coach Houk said his Bears played solid defense for the last three quarters and kept fighting. “I was proud of the way our kids fought back,” he said. “We showed a lot of heart.”
The Bears will travel to Salem for SCA action Friday night and will go to Reeds Spring on Jan. 17.
In the meantime, the Ava 9th grade boys are preparing for tournament action at Willow Springs next week. The Bears are seeded second behind West Plains and will have a first round bye. Ava’s first game will be Thursday, Jan. 19 vs. the winner of the Mtn. Grove-Licking contest.
Finals will be played on Saturday, Jan. 21.
The bracket has also be announced for the Conway varsity tournament which will be played Jan. 23-28.
There are six teams in the tournament, including Conway JV, and the preliminary games will be pool play.
Ava will play Conway JV at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23 and the Bears will face Stoutland at 6 o’clock Thursday, Jan. 26.
Finals will be played on Saturday night, Jan. 28.
Tournament teams include Conway, Ava, Stoutland, Miller, Laquey and Conway JV.