ARCADIA - Avon Park never quit, but the Red Devils just couldn't overcome their earlier mistakes, as they fell to DeSoto by a score of 47-41 Monday night in Arcadia.
The loss dropped Avon Park to 2-4 on the season.
"Our rebounding killed us," said Avon Park girls basketball coach Paulette Daley. "We just couldn't seem to get an offensive rebound when we needed it or keep them off the glass. We've got to do better on that."
The Class 4A Red Devils started off playing well, matching the Class 5A Bulldogs bucket for bucket. But late in the first quarter, with the score tied at 10, DeSoto strung together a 4-0 run that seemed to shatter Avon Park's confidence.
The Bulldogs kept up the intensity in the second quarter, outscoring the Red Devils 10-5 to take a commanding 25-15 lead into the half.
DeSoto owed nearly all of its success Monday night to its stellar rebounding effort. Avon Park defended the Bulldogs well more often than not, but DeSoto continued to come away with its own misses, and simply wore the Red Devils down with second chance points.
"We had some defensive lapses," Daley said. "A lot of my post players were in foul trouble and we left a few shooters wide open too many times. We've got to cut down on those mistakes."
In the third quarter, DeSoto expanded its lead to 17 points, taking a 32-15 lead only four minutes into the second half.
But that's when Avon Park showed its resolve.
Sparked by a handful of steals from Toryana Jones, the Red Devils converted DeSoto's turnovers into easy layups to cut into the Bulldogs lead.
Jones, who led the Red Devils in scoring with 17, kept the offensive tempo at a breakneck pace, forcing DeSoto to scramble on defense.
Unable to transition into their defensive set, Jones found teammates Imani Tate and Jonkevia Williams for easy baskets while teammate Connie Dewberry continued to wreck havoc for the Devils on defense.
Following a 3-pointer from Jones, Avon Park cut DeSoto's lead down to a much more manageable eight points, as the Bulldogs led 41-33 with just under five minutes remaining in the game.
Another steal and layup from Dewberry made it five points, and a give-and-go between Jones and Shalonda Jordan who scored with the foul, cut it to 41-38.
DeSoto hastily called a time out to regroup.
Daring the Bulldogs to shoot the three, Avon Park forced DeSoto into a flurry of bad shots, but the Red Devils never managed to come away with the ball.
DeSoto's Tyshonna Riley always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, snagging every loose ball and netting back-to-back baskets with the foul to put the lead out of reach. Riley led the Bulldogs in scoring with 15.
Even with time running out on them, the Devils continued to force the issue on offense, but after another 3-pointer from Jones, Avon Park never found the basket again and the Bulldogs held on for the six-point win.
While upset by the loss, Daley said she knows her team has the talent to excel. They just need to find some consistency.
"After a while, you could see that the offense was starting to settle into its set," she said. "The only problem was, we just weren't putting the ball in the basket."
"But I've been telling them as the season goes along, you can't show up for two or three minutes and then coast. There's got to be some consistency."
Avon Park's final game of the month was a Tuesday night match up against nondistrict opponent Lake Wales.
Results were not available at press time, but the complete story and photos will be in the Highlands Today.
The Red Devils are off for the rest of the week due to the Thanksgiving holidays.
Avon Park returns from the break on Dec. 5, when it faces Class 4A-District 9 rival McKeel Academy.
The Wildcats are the first of five district foes the Red Devils will play in December.