By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Two tenacious teams battled in conference play Monday night, with Willow Springs beating Ava, 63-61.
“I think we have a pretty good team when we talk about being able to sub kids in and out, but right now we’re just kind of struggling,” said Willow Springs head coach Judy Tilley, “but we have time to fix it, so we’re going to work on it. I told the girls in the locker room, a win is a win, you celebrate it and go on to the next one.”
Ava head coach Nathan Houk credited his team’s effort.
“I felt like we played pretty well and gave them a heck of a game,” he said. “Willow has a very talented team and have a lot of kids who can score and create mismatches; they ended up with more possessions than us because of turnovers. We were making a run there and ran out of time at the end. We turned the ball over too much at times and that was really probably the difference in the game.”
Ashton Bewley propelled Ava to an early lead, but Tessa Duddridge scored half of her total points in the first quarter to help put Willow Springs up by two. The teams evened up at 30 each at the half.
Willow created havoc for Ava in the third with their full court press, holding them to 10 points while scoring 22 of their own.
“We let them get away from us defensively and didn’t do a good enough job keeping them from the basket,” said Coach Houk. “We went cold offensively, and they took advantage.”
But Ava crept back in the fourth, capitalizing on Willow’s turnovers in the top of the frame to score eight unanswered points. Alexa Fredrick broke Willow’s scoring drought, connecting from the key for three.
Five points separated the teams with a minute to play, but Claire Fossett put up a bucket underneath, then Ashton Bewley followed a Willow turnover with a jumper to bring Ava within two with eight seconds left. But the effort was too little, too late, and Willow Springs held on for the win.
“We panicked,” said Coach Tilley of the final quarter. “Some of the players are pretty young. But the seniors are starting to step up and lead a little bit and they are doing a great job. We let up at certain points, and maybe that’s on me, but we are going to get it worked out and we are going to be pretty potent in districts.”
Willow Springs moves to 11-4 on the season with a 1-1 record in the conference and will next take on SCA foe Mountain Grove on Thursday. Ava is now 7-5 and also 1-1 in conference play and next faces SCA opponent Thayer on Thursday.
Scoring for Willow Springs: Tessa Duddridge – 14, Madison Porter – 12, Alyssa Von Allmen – 10, Alexa Fredrick – 12, Shy Figley – 6, Sydney Miller – 5, Chloe Chafin – 3, Ashlyn Jones – 1.
Scoring for Ava: Ashton Bewley – 24, Claire Fossett – 17, Lauren Mendel – 14, Araina Evans – 5, Lauren Hall – 1.