Lady Vikings knocks off unbeaten Mountain Heritage, handles shorthanded Mitchell
Jamie Shell / (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Three evenings later, Avery hosted rival Mitchell. Avery’s deep and talented roster eventually overwhelmed a game Lady Mountaineers club fielding only eight players, pulling away late for a 73-51 home win at Viking Gym.
The Lady Vikings faced a Lady Cougars club dealing with injury to each of its two leading scorers in guard Samm Chandler and forward Brianna Woody. Woody, last season’s WHC Player of the Year, scored 15 points before leaving the game on Wednesday, Jan. 16, against the Big Red with an apparent knee injury.
Avery held a working lead against the Lady Cougars for much of the contest, and behind double-figures scoring from the tandem of Kelsie Clarke (16 points), Lauren Burleson (15 points, 16 rebounds) and Bre Heaton (10 points), the Lady Vikings held off a Lady Cougars rally to pick up the win.
“We’ve been up and down, and we really needed to play well against a good team,” Avery head coach Missy Lyons said after the win. “We didn’t shoot the ball great, but we hustled really hard and did a few specific things we wanted to do against them. We didn’t shoot free throws great, but we were able to pick up a good win.”
Mountain Heritage continued to play hard after losing arguably the team’s best player.
“I thought they played hard to rally without her [Woody] at the end. The game was close throughout, but I felt like we had control and a nice little lead throughout the game for the most part,” Lyons added. “I know her loss hurt them a lot and hated to see her get hurt, because she’s a good player.”
Mountain Heritage led 15-13 after one period, but the Lady Vikings led 29-26 at halftime and held a four-point edge at 41-37 entering the final eight minutes. Avery matched up well with the Lady Cougars and took advantage of its athleticism to keep MHHS at arm’s length.
“They are kind of a long and lean team much like we are. We started with Lauren [Burleson] on Woody and she did a fantastic job,” Lyons explained. “We did little things like boxing out and put in some offensive looks to create mismatches with their switches on defense. I felt if we stayed close with them until the end, that we had a good shot at beating them.”
Nyssa Freeman paced Heritage with 16 points, with 12 points from Lacey Elkins.
Avery looked to avoid a letdown on Saturday, Jan. 19, when it hosted neighboring Mitchell in a 1A conference showdown. The Lady Mountaineers dressed just eight players, but managed to keep the contest with Avery within striking distance until late in the game.
Both teams started slowly offensively, as neither team scored a basket until more than three minutes had elapsed in the first period. The teams heated up shortly thereafter, however, as Clarke drained a pair of three pointers to help Avery build a 21-10 advantage after one period.
Mitchell refused to go away, narrowing the deficit to six points on a pair of occasions in the second quarter and 35-30 in the closing seconds. A basket at the buzzer to end the period by Avery’s Jodi Poore spotted the Big Red a 37-30 halftime lead.
As the third quarter progressed, the Big Red began to wear down the Lady Mountaineers. A buzzer-beating basket by AHS’s Juanita Guzman helped the Lady Vikings build a 12-point edge at 56-44 with eight minutes to play.
The Lady Vikings took charge to begin the final period, turning up the defensive pressure, with quick hands from the likes of guards Kylie Polsgrove and Katie Rigdon converting turnovers into AHS points. Avery outscored Mitchell 15-9 to close out the conference win.
Clarke paced Avery with 19 points, with 16 points from Burleson and 10 from Heaton.
AHS returned to action earlier this week with a road contest at Owen. The team returns home this Friday, Jan. 25, to host Thomas Jefferson.
COACHES VS.CANCER NIGHTS AT AVERY HIGH SCHOOL:
This Friday, Jan. 25, Avery High School's men's basketball is holding Coaches vs. Cancer Night. The Vikings' men's basketball coaches will join coaches across the country dressed in suits and tennis shoes in recognition of the fight against cancer.
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, Avery's ladies basketball clubs will be holding their annual "Pink Game," as players and coaches will don pink apparel in honor of breast cancer awareness.
Donations will be accepted both evenings for cancer research. In addition, during both evenings, the Avery Athletics Department will donate $1 toward the cause for each point scored during all the games.
AHS challenges the community to come out to support this cause both with donations and with fan support. Local businesses are invited to take part in matching funds raised. For more information, call Avery High School Director of Athletics Jay Smith at (828) 733-0842.