NEWLAND — Avery JV boys basketball saw its undefeated record blemished on Monday, Feb. 8, with a loss in Boone to the Watauga JV Pioneers by a final score of 59-36, but rallied for a pair of conference wins later in the week over Owen and Polk to stay perfect in Western Highlands Conference play.
In the matchup with the Pioneers, Avery could only muster a pair of Landon Ingham free throws in the first six minutes of the opening stanza, and settled for just four points for the period. The Watauga length and pressing defense worked in tandem to confound the Avery attack when attempting to advance the basketball upcourt. Watauga opened the contest on an 8-2 run over the game’s first three minutes, as a Mason Bailey basket for the visitors left Avery with a 14-4 deficit after seven minutes of play.
The Vikings continued to struggle shooting from the field, as the WHS defense collapsed on Avery attempts to penetrate the paint and its offense consistently crashed the offensive glass for multiple scoring opportunities. The Pioneers offense refused to settle for jump shots, repeatedly driving the basketball into the teeth of the Vikings defense.
Lucas Hughes paced Avery with five first-half points, with four from Ingham, but Watauga extended its lead to 20 at 32-12 at halftime.
Avery bounced back in the third quarter to outscore the Pioneers by a 16-12 margin, but could not draw any closer than 44-28 after three periods. WHS outscored Avery 15-6 over the final seven minutes of the matchup to capture the 59-36 non-conference win.
On Feb. 12, Avery traveled for a matchup with the Owen Warhorses, earning a 42-29 victory.
The Vikings slowly opened a 10-7 lead after one quarter of play behind the offense of Mason Bailey, who scored three baskets and eight of the Vikings’ 10 points in the frame. As the second quarter unfolded, both teams had difficulty putting the ball into the basket. Both teams only mustered six points apiece in the stanza, leaving Avery with a three-point lead at 16-13 at halftime.
During the second half, the Warhorses proved that they were not going to lie down or go away easily, as the home team outscored AHS by an 11-7 margin. Leading 24-21 in the final seconds of the quarter, Avery’s Ingham scored on a breakaway layup as time expired to draw the Vikings within a point at 24-23 at the end of the third period.
The game remained a one-possession contest through the first half of the fourth stanza, but Avery, and Bailey specifically, asserted themselves on offense, as the team clamped down defensively on the Warhorses to earn a 13-point win in a contest that was much closer than the final score indicated.
Bailey had his most impressive offensive showing of the season, as he poured in a game-high 23 points. Landon Ingham added eight points, with four from Devron Patterson.
The following afternoon, Avery ventured to Columbus to take on the Polk JV Wolverines. The Big Red opened up an early lead and never looked back in a 58-34 road win.
In the first quarter, the Vikings built a double-figures lead behind four points each from Bailey and Lucas Hughes. Baskets from Bray Guest, Landon Ingham, Patterson, and Elijah Holtsclaw helped the Big Red lead 16-5 after one quarter.
The Avery defense continued to play impressively, as it held the Wolverines to just three baskets during the remainder of the first half. Meanwhile, the AHS offense continued to roll along. Four free throws from Bailey, as well as a Holtsclaw three-point basket helped the visitors to take a commanding 29-12 lead into halftime.
Polk came out with more fire to open the third quarter and was able to keep pace offensively with the Vikings, outscoring the Big Red 13-11 in the third stanza. Despite the minor triumph, the Vikings nevertheless remained in control with a 40-25 lead entering the final seven minutes of play.
As had been the case the previous evening at Owen, Avery finished the game strong, as Bailey netted three baskets and Holtsclaw, Ingham and Patterson each scored buckets in the period to propel Avery to the 24-point win to help the team remain unbeaten in conference play.
The Vikings hosted Mitchell this week to try to complete a perfect Western Highlands Conference season and championship, as the conference JV tournament was canceled.