Full Depth: Bears benefit from full squad

By Jason Hoekema / jason@douglascountyherald.com

MANSFIELD – The Ava Bears basketball team had a decisive win over the Norwood Pirates Monday, keeping the opponent’s offense to as little as five points in a quarter. 

It’s the 83rd Annual Mansfield Lions Invitational with Ava playing in the pool section in an otherwise irking tournament bracket. Their next game in the tournament is today where they will face Conway.

At this point, should Ava top Conway they will win the pool and be slotted into the championship game scheduled for Saturday, December 14 at 7:30.

If they drop the match against Conway, they will play the Game 7 loss for a chance at third place.

Running and Gunning

In a 16-9 first quarter the Bears pulled away thanks to a six-point run and two threes sunk by Dalton and Quinton Donley.

Donley continues to be a dangerous asset for the Bears. Monday, he shot for nine points, all from the perimeter and just one shot shy of the 12 put up against Gainesville last week. 

One of the issues plaguing the Pirates was rebounding. With lengthy players like Jacob Gillies and Andrew Dalton under the steel on most plays, the Bears turned picks into points. 

Dalton picked up at least one defensive rebound, a steal and an assist in Monday’s matchup. The sophomore still leads in points with 15, but he isn’t the only player hitting double-digits. 

“I thought kids came out and executed the game plan,” said Seiger. “Obviously, it was nice to have the football guys back. I think we’re a different team without them.” Yesterday was our first day of collectively practicing together. So that was that was a big thing in itself. Fortunately, we came out of football healthy and those guys came in and they were ready to go.”

Senior Nate Swofford worked for ten points with three twos, one long-shot and a free throw. Unfortunately, he shot just .250 from the line which was odd given that he shot an overall .717 last year. 

In the second quarter the Bears’ kept at it with a 13-12 lead to the half time score of 29-21. It was in the second where the Bears did find some trouble with Norwood going on a sprint of six, coming within two of the Bears’ lead.

The Bears negated the surge with a five-point run of their own, but something had to be done about Garrett Davault, who shot for 18 points, 16 before the break. 

With six twos, a three, and .750 at the line Davault was making points faster than he was spending them. Only one foul resulted in extras, and the Bears didn’t take the point from him. 

Dalton picked up an offensive rebound for two and chipped-in two more on a foul drawn from Zack Black in the second quarter and on defense Gillies came up big by denying Gavin Dunn a shot at the bucket in the second quarter. 

After the break the Bears kept at it, scoring 18-5 in the third and 17-8 in the fourth. All but eliminating the Norwood offense at the end. 

14 of the 18 points in the third quarter were scored in two separate runs of seven. One run was broken by a two pointer and the second by a free throw from the Pirates. 

In the third Quinton Donley sunk two, one in each of those seven-point runs. Meanwhile twos were coming-in from the length of the roster with Blake and Dylan King making their own contributions. 

Into the fourth the Norwood offense continued to be a no-show as, once again, the Bears were putting up points with successful shooting across the roster. In the end it was a ten-point run which gave the breakaway to Ava who finished the match thirty points ahead. 

Foul Territory

The football season literally ended two days prior to Monday’s game, and it showed. The Bears were aggressive, perhaps a tad too aggressive. They gave up 21 fouls on Monday which Norwood made use of for ten points. 

Part of the whistle blowing was the sheer athleticism of the team and their aggressive edge on the court. It was without doubt that the Bears were the bigger and better team. Kayden Meyers and Andrew Dalton each gave up one charging foul in Monday’s game. 

“Sometimes when you play aggressive, that’s going to happen,” said coach Damon Seiger. “I think us transitioning from football into basketball right now is a key part of that. I think you saw some of that tonight.” 

Although the whistle didn’t necessarily hurt the Bears this game, foul trouble could spell disastrous results in future games where free throws can decide whether a team will sink or swim. Ava had a couple of those games last season, one which was the 61-58 loss to Hollister in double-overtime. 

Luckily Norwood was shooting at .526 from the charity stripe. On the other hand, Ava missed opportunities for free points as well. The Bears made good on just seven shots, shooting an overall .467. With the scoring ending 64-34, the Bears didn’t need the extras but did shoot better against a more competitive Gainesville at .667.

“You know, sometimes fouling is bad thing,” said Seiger. “But other times fouling is not such a bad thing. We were the more physical team tonight. I think that was that was showed. Unfortunately, sometimes it shows up with a few more fouls, but sometimes we’ll take a few more fouls just to make sure that we’re more physical.”

Ava turned-up the bonus with 2:58 left in the first half and gave up the double with just seconds left before the break. In both situations the late arrival of the seventh and tenth team foul didn’t allow Norwood to capitalize on it. Other teams might.

The Bears were a bit quicker to seven in the second half, allowing the bonus to light up at the very end of the third quarter. Norwood made five trips to the line for ten opportunities, but only took four of those points home. 

Assist Alley

Dalton is still a big-points player, but in the third quarter his actions led to more than the two he put in himself. Dalton passed the ball for three assists, two of which went to Donley for three apiece. The other was to Gillies under the rim for two. 

The depth of the roster and sheer athleticism of the Ava Bears is one thing, but with players across the bench getting on to the maple and contributing could become a challenge for future opponents who aim to shut down one or two key players. 

In total at least eight assists went in for at least 18 points in the second half. Blayne Mendel got a pick in the third which went straight to Dalton for two in the third, then Dalton sent one across the court to Swofford for two. Examples of the ability to use multiple players for the team’s benefit with a deep roster at coach Seiger’s disposal. 

“It’s the system which we run,” said Seiger. “It’s intended to get a lot of people involved. We try to play inside out therefore, we incorporate post players. All the same, we expect guys to be able to step in. Everybody has a role on this team it’s just understanding what that role is. Fortunate for us, we’ve got multiple guys with the ball in the hole. Granted, tonight may be different than Thursday night and maybe different than Saturday. It gave us the opportunity to put some guys in positions and be successful tonight and get some points in doing so.”