A strategy you’d typically see in a pickup game lifted the Cabool Bulldogs to victory on Friday night.
After Ava’s Austin Gastineau had tied the game 59-59 with less than a minute remaining, Cabool answered back in only a few seconds.
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The Bulldogs inbounded the ball and threw it up to Drew Pearson, who had begun running to halfcourt as Gastineau scored. Pearson caught outlet pass, converted a three-point play with 45.7 seconds remaining, and Gastineau missed a game-tying jumper in the final moments as the Bulldogs beat their South Central Association foe 65-62.
“When (Ava) scored, they weren’t getting back real quick because they were trying to get into their defense,” said Cabool coach Brad Shockley. “We talked about, ‘The next time they score, let’s look to send one of our post players down the court.’ It’s one of those things that worked out right.”
Trailing 64-62 with 5.4 seconds remaining, Ava missed two free throws only to have Gastineau get the offensive rebound. His short fadeway jumper from the right side rolled out, and Cabool grabbed the rebound with .5 seconds left on the clock.
Ava finished 7-for-15 at the free throw line in the game.
“That’s the difference maker,” said Ava coach Nathan Houk. “We had a chance to put that game out of reach. Obviously we had a chance to tie it at the end, but I thought earlier on that if we had made two or three more free throws then we’re the ones with the upper-hand coming down the stretch.”
After Pearson’s three-point play, Ava’s Ben Loge hit two free throws to get the Bears within 62-61. Cabool’s Tanner Barnes responded with two free throws to put the Bulldogs up 64-61 with 28.6 seconds remaining.
Gastineau converted one of two free throws, making it 64-62 with 25.7 seconds to go. Ava then fouled Cabool’s Broderick Davis, who came up empty on two attempts.
Ava got the rebound, drew a foul, but missed two free throws with 5.4 seconds left.
Houk said Pearson’s three-point play was a matter of awareness.
“We’re trying to get to the basket,” Houk said. “We’re coming down in transition and if it doesn’t go in, obviously you try to have someone there to rebound it. (Cabool) just had a guy that stayed on their end. Yeah, we didn’t get back, but they just in-bounded it and threw the ball to (Pearson).
“When we come down in transition and we see that we’re gonna get a layup, we have to recognize that somebody has to stay back. That’s really the first team that’s done it to us all year. It’s something we’re gonna have to work on.”
Taylor Bay led four Cabool players in double figures with 17 points. Gastineau scored a game-high 37, 26 coming in the second half.
“He’s so tough,” Shockley said. “He goes left, spins right, and it’s just about two points every time.
“He just has such good control of his body. You know he’s going to go to the hole, but you can’t stop him. He’s got a great first step, body control, he gets up and avoids the defense.”
Cabool (16-6, 2-1 SCA) hosts Salem on Tuesday night. Ava (14-8, 2-1) plays Tuesday night at Mountain View-Liberty.
Cabool 65, Ava 62
Cabool 14 11 15 25 --- 65
Ava 12 14 14 22 --- 62
Cabool – Taylor Bay 17, Drew Pearson 16, Tanner Barnes 12, Austin Baker 11, Gavin Green 6, Joe Kozak 3
Ava – Austin Gastineau 37, Brandon Guengerich 9, Ben Loge 8, Cooper Emerich 4, Dexter Fish 2, Phillip Eubanks 2
Ava B 59, Cabool B 36