aThey may not have gotten off to the kind of start they wanted to in 2005 due to injuries, but if Ann Whiteside has anything to say about it, the Mammoth Spring Lady Bears are geared up for a strong post-holidays push.
Whiteside proved to be too much for the visiting Couch Lady Indians Dec. 15, as she led the Lady Bears to a 45-38 non-conference victory.
Later in the evening the Bears made it a clean sweep of their neighbors from Oregon County by topping the Indians 51-43.
With All-Stater Madison Busch sidelined, Whiteside picked up the slack against Couch by tossing in a game-high 27 points, including the game's first bucket of the night.
The first 16 minutes of play was highly competitive with six ties and neither side able to pull in front by more than four points.
Kandy York (12 points) kept the Lady Indians in the thick of things in the first period with six points on a pair of old-fashioned 3-point plays.
With less than a minute left in the first, Tara Combs (six points) hit a layup that broke a 12-all deadlock and pushed Couch in front by two.
The Lady Bears responded with back-to-back hoops from Jodie Walsh (six points) and Whiteside to take a 16-14 lead after one.
With Mammoth Spring in front 18-17 at the 3:20 mark of the second, Traci Murdock (six points) drained a 3-ball that put Couch on top 20-18.
As it turned out, that would be the last time in the game that the Lady Indians would enjoy the lead.
Mammoth Spring closed the first half on a 7-1 burst, including four points from Kayly Vest, to take a 25-21 lead, their biggest at that point of the game, to intermission.
The third period was all Whiteside on the baseline.
She racked up three straight buckets in the paint that turned Mammoth Springs' 27-24 lead into a 33-24 lead with 1:21 left in the third.
After Kassi Burr broke the Lady Bears' run with a jumper, Mammoth Spring ended the frame with a pair of unanswered scores that gave it a 39-26 lead heading into the fourth.
Needing points in a hurry if it planned to fashion any kind of comeback, Couch went through a dry spell in the fourth and didn't hit its first bucket of the frame until the 2:37 mark.
Taylor Hanser did can a triple with 21 ticks left in the game, but the Lady Bears, who managed just two hoops in the fourth, still held on to win by seven points.
Melanie Maguffee finished with six points for Mammoth Spring, while Ashley Walsh and Jonnie Bellows had two points each for the Lady Bears.
Samantha LaBahn, Caitlyn Melton and Sandy LaBahn had two points apiece for Couch, with Lorra Wicker adding one.
On the boys' side of things, bodies were hitting the floor faster than the eye could follow in a physical battle of two gritty squads.
This pounding took its toll, as the pace of the game crawled to a halt in the fourth period with a steady parade to the charity stripe at both ends of the court.
The Bears, who had scored 28 points through the first three periods of play, broke loose for 23 in the fourth period alone, with 13 coming from the charity stripe. Couch, which had scored 24 points over the course of the first three frames, tossed in 19 in the fourth, 13 coming via free throws.
And while the last eight minutes did bog down, the first three periods were spirited affairs with both teams hitting the gas pedal hard.
With Couch up 6-3 midway into the first, Trevor Halladay (nine points) canned a 3-pointer to lock the game at 6-all.
The Indians then uncorked six unanswered points, two layups from Randy Clawson and a jumper by Nick Wick (four points), that helped Couch to a 12-8 lead after one.
Mammoth Spring started the second stanza strong with a layup from Aaron Shipp and triple from Segan Underwood that gave the Bears their first lead of the game since the opening hoop of the night.
Couch refused to be denied and retook the lead late in the frame on an inside hoop from Zain Hopper (10 points).
A pair of free throws from Cameron Kent (seven points) locked the contest at 19-all before Josh Hopper had the final say for Couch with a mid-range jumper that pushed the Indians on top 21-19 at intermission.
Couch saw its margin of control evaporate in the third period, as the Indians could manage just three points in the frame.
Mammoth Spring took advantage of Couch's shooting woes by busting out on a 7-0 run.
Addison Guy (10 points) got the Bears going with a hoop, and Kent added a 3-ball. Zach Sims capped the burst with a layup that gave the Bears a 26-22 lead, a lead they would take into the final frame.
Down 28-24 after three, Couch did manage to catch up with Mammoth Spring and lock the game at 31-all with 5:40 left to play.
As it turned out, that was as close as Couch could get, with the Bears simply hitting more free throws down the stretch to take an eight-point win over the Indians.
Gage Busch tossed in 11 of his game-high 13 points for the Bears in the last five minutes of the contest.
Tyler Mitchell added five points for Mammoth Spring.
Bjorn Wilkerson and Alex O'Neill finished with eight points each for Couch, while Doug Melton had four, and Blake Martin three.