2021-22 Winter Preview: Ava Boys Basketball

By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

The Ava Bears have enjoyed a basketball renaissance in recent years.

To achieve a “three-peat” this season, the Bears must reshuffle their lineup and mesh an experienced core with some promising newcomers.

“Our success depends on how healthy we can stay, as well as being able to peak at the right time,” said third-year coach Damon Seiger. “We have had a couple of very good back-to-back seasons and will look to build off that foundation heading into this season.”

Ava returns a trio who has significant varsity experience, including one of the area’s top players in senior forward Andrew Dalton.

He averaged 22 points and eight rebounds per game last season and earned all-state honors in Class 4.

“Andrew’s done a little bit of everything for us the past three years,” Seiger said. “He’s as skilled a player as I have ever coached and his competitiveness is unmatched.”

The 6’3” Dalton is one of the most accomplished players in school history.

Dalton’s a two-time all-state selection and has already become Ava’s all-time scoring leader with 1,746 career points.

Dalton continues to receive interest from several college programs, Seiger said.

The Bears return their starting point guard in senior Blayne Mendel, who averaged six points and six assists per game last season.

Mendel facilitates Ava’s offense and does it well.

Last season, he set a single-season school record with 179 assists – topping the old mark by nearly 50 assists.

Mendel was named second team all-conference.

“Blayne has worked himself into one of the better point guards in our area. He understands the idea of making those around him better,” Seiger said.

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Senior Ethan Donley is one of the team’s top defenders and does the dirty work wherever it’s needed.

He averaged about five points, three rebounds and two assists per game last season, but should see those totals increase this season.

“Last season he was asked to be a lockdown defender and excelled in that role. He took on many tough matchups each night,” Seiger said. “His role will expand this year and we look forward to seeing his development.”

Ava has risen to new heights under Seiger.

The Bears have won district championships and finished with 20 or more wins the past two seasons.

Ava previously hadn’t won a district championship, or reached the 20-win mark, since 2011.

The Bears finished 23-6 overall last season.

Ava beat Willow Springs and Hollister to win the Class 4 District 11 Tournament. Ava then fell 36-34 to East Newton in the Class 4 sectional round.

Ava graduated a six-player senior class from that squad.

Guard Quinton Donley was a superb perimeter shooter for the Bears. He made over 40% of his 3-point attempts and earned all-conference honorable mention.

Forward Mason Cole was one of the team’s top athletes and finished second in both scoring and rebounding.

Also gone are Bryse Dodson (forward), Payton Evans (guard), Dylan Sawyer (guard) and Zach Mendel (forward).

The Bears return a mix of experience and youth to fill in the gaps.

Seniors Corey Heinlein and Konner Nelson are 6-foot guards who provide playmaking ability in the backcourt.

“Corey’s a plus-athlete with lots of upside,” Seiger said. “The way he can attack off the dribble makes him a difficult matchup for most.

“Konner’s a crafty guard who runs our offense as well as anyone.”

Carter Mahan, a 6’3” junior forward, boasts strength and power around the basket.

“His physicality is unmatched, and we’ll need him to provide that throughout the season,” Seiger said.

The Bears’ backcourt also includes junior Ashton Stout, a “gritty” guard who could factor into the playing rotation, Seiger said.

A pair of freshmen will look to contribute right away.

Isaac Dalton, the younger brother of Andrew, offers intriguing skills on a 6’3” frame.

“Isaac’s a slashing guard/forward who has a knack for scoring,” Seiger said.

Spensar Seiger, a 6’1” guard and the son of the head coach, is also contending for varsity playing time.

“Spensar can attack off the dribble and provides us another scoring threat,” Damon Seiger said.

The Bears play in a jamboree on November 18 against Willard (host), Glendale and Clever.

Ava’s regular season opener is November 22 at home versus Reeds Spring.

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