The Avon Eagles are flying high with a 3-1 record heading in Saturday’s Southwestern Conference game against Olmsted Falls, a rematch of last year’s Division I district final.
Although Avon came out on the losing end of that game, the Eagles’ improbable tournament run last season in which they knocked off No. 1 seed Amherst in the district semifinals as a No. 6 seed, set the stage for the team’s early success this season.
“When we made our big playoff run last year it gave us the feeling and the confidence that we really have the opportunity to be good,” Avon junior guard Elizabeth Flynn said. “We have most of the girls back from last year so we knew what we had to do to build off of that and come back this year and be successful.”
Flynn, who hit a buzzer-beater in the district semifinal win over the Comets, is Avon’s leading scorer this year at 15.3 points per game.
With senior Juliann Walker averaging 10 points per game the Eagles not only have the balanced scoring they’ve had in years past — they had eight players in the scoring column in their opening win against Bay — they now have a two-girl scoring combo that is among the tops in Lorain County.
“We’ve been running our plays right and we’ve all been executing well,” Flynn said. “Me and Juliann have been playing together for years now so we know how each other play and how to work together well.”
While the offensive numbers get the most attention from the casual observer, Walker is quick to point out that Avon is doing its best work on the defensive end.
“Our defense has improved a lot this year and that’s creating our offense,” Walker said. “We’ve been working hard in practice and improving every day. Our first win (against Bay) really boosted our confidence.”
The Eagles held their first three opponents to an average of 33 points.
“We’re creating turnovers and we’re getting our hands up and getting steals and deflections,” Walker said. “That leads to us getting a lot of fast-break opportunities. I feel like everybody on the court for us can really run the floor well and we’re all pretty athletic and fast so we’ve been able to take advantage of those chances.”
Avon coach Meghan Larrick expects the Eagles’ defense to carry the team this season.
“We’ve been trying to find an identity over the past few years and I think our defensive ability, our aggressiveness and our physicality are going to help us be successful this season” Larrick said. “There are phenomenal basketball players all over the SWC this year, numerous D-I athletes who can put the ball in the hole. Our goal this year is to stop those players from getting in their groove. Every time we step on the court our goal is to hold teams to under 30 points.”
Avon has one of those Division I athletes in 6-foot-2 post Amari Davidson, a University of Dayton commit. Davidson is one of the best interior defenders in the SWC and, on most nights, gives the Eagles a size advantage in the lane and on the boards.
Coming off its first loss of the year Wednesday night at Berea-Midpark, the Eagles will face another stern test against an undefeated Olmsted Falls team that comes into the game 4-0, tied for the SWC lead and having scored 50 or more points in every game this season.
“We have to stay confident and stay humble,” Larrick said. “We have to continue to work to get better each and every day in practice. We can’t take for granted what our abilities are. That’s really going to be the key to having a successful season.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.