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Conway Bears off to strong start this season
CONWAY — Led by head coach Jeff Cope, the Conway boys’ basketball team is quietly putting together a strong season.
On Tuesday, the Bears won its fifth straight game and improved to 8-2 as they knocked off the Ava Bears. Although the Bears suffered one-sided losses to Strafford and Mountain Grove, Cope says the Bears have otherwise risen to the occasion against good teams and has surprised even themselves at times this season.
The Bears count wins over Forsyth, Fordland, Fair Grove and Gainesville — all teams with a winning record.
“We’ve just found a way to make things work, get some points on the board and get some stops,” Cope said.
Conway recently earned the No. 1 seed at the Spokane Tournament and will face the No. 8 seed Galena at 6 p.m. on Jan. 15. Should they win, the Bears would then face the winner between No. 4 seeded Reeds Spring and host Spokane.
“The nice thing about this group is everybody has a job to do and nobody tries to do anything more than what they are capable of,” Cope said.
The Bears have been led this season by 6’5 2018 big man Tanner Pippins who is averaging a team-high 17.3 points and eight rebounds per game this season.
“He has emerged as an offensive weapon for us this year and he has done a great job for us,” Cope said. “He virtually never comes off the floor.”
Senior guards Gunnar Berger and Cody Delcour have also been a big part of the Bears’ success this season. Both entered the season with extensive varsity experience under their belts.
“Gunnar has really stepped into the role of being a more reliable scorer where he shows up in a box score all four quarters … he has really worked hard and been disciplined and put points on the board consistently,” Cope said.
Cope says Caleb Little and Colby Vavruska have flown under the radar but have quietly put together strong seasons. Both are taking over much bigger roles after the graduation of guard Taylor Simpson.
“They’re not flashy, but they have handled the ball extremely well and besides the first game against Crane, turnovers have been the same they have been the past five years, in the 11-13 range, which is acceptable,” Cope said. “They handle the ball and they get it to the people that can do something with it.
“When their time is there to hit a shot, they have each hit a big shot for us.”
Hunter Wissbaum is averaging four points and five rebounds per game and has been an important factor for the Bears on the boards and in the paint.
“We’re not a flashy team, but they do a great job of playing with each other and for each other,” Cope said. “It is fun to watch.”