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What seems like just a few weeks ago now, the Ava Bears and Lady Bears were getting ready to start the basketball season. A lot of people were watching with anticipation, wondering what kind of strategy first-year head coach Nathan Houk would implement. After all, the Bears had graduated about 50 points per game in the bodies of career, single season and single game scoring leader Pete Leonard, 3-point scoring leader Trae Shelton, and point guard Brock Mitchell. When we talked to Coach Houk at that time, he acknowledged this year’s team would not have the scoring power of the previous year’s team, and that defense would be a key to the team’s success. Defense and hard work.
Although the Bears’ season ended Saturday night with a loss in the championship game of the district tournament, the Bears had an incredible season, winning the South Central Association with an undefeated conference record (they were picked to finish 5th or 6th in preseason polls), winning the Mansfield tournament and finishing second in the Conway tournament, and finishing second in the Class 3 District 2 Tournament.
Hats off to Coach Houk and the Bears for an exciting season.
While the Bears entered the 2011-12 basketball season as underdogs by most assessments, the Lady Bears were quite a different story. With five returning senior starters who have played together since kindergarten, Coach Clint Gazette admitted he had a team that was “going to be pretty good.” With 6-foot-1 senior Jorie Garrett and 6-foot senior Payton Lakey not only scoring points but pulling down rebounds and blocking shots, and scoring an occasional 3-pointer, the Lady Bears were going to be hard to beat. Factor in the never-say-die defensive play of Bethany Horn and Emily Sterling, and the leadership of Abbie Lansdown at the point guard position, the Lady Bears would be a force to reckon with.
The Lady Bears’ season ended with a disappointing loss in the semifinals of the district tournament last week – a loss to the same Willow Springs team that also denied them the conference title.
The Lady Bears, too, had a great season, winning 19, but coming up just short in some games that would have turned the season around. The Lady Bears had a great season, and had some circumstances panned out differently for the team, they might have had a fabulous season. We can’t speculate, and there’s no point in boo-hooing about what might have been.
Both the Bears and the Lady Bears gave us an exciting basketball season and we congratulate both Coach Houk and Coach Gazette on coaching two great teams.
Now, in addition to all the ramblings above, there’s another factor that I want to point out about these two basketball teams – in fact, about all the athletes at Ava High School.
The spring Renaissance assembly was held Tuesday, recognizing academic achievements of the previous semester, and in some cases the previous school year. Something I noticed as I heard names called was the number of athletes who came forward to receive academic awards. These award winners will be listed in the Herald, along with pictures of the recipients over the next several weeks as space permits. It speaks well of the school – and of the parents – when you see the same students receiving all-conference awards in sports as well as high honors in academics.
It makes you think someone must be doing something right. Congratulations students, teachers, administrators and parents for a job well done.