AVON PARK - It's been a tale of two halves for Avon Park this season.
The Red Devils girls basketball team continued that trend Tuesday night at home, falling to Lake Wales by a score of 39-27.
The loss dropped the Devils to 2-5 on the season while the Highlanders improved to 4-1.
"First half of the game we play great," said Avon Park coach Paulette Daley. "We can play blow-to-blow, but the second half we don't. And now it's in their head. It has to be up here with that winning spirit that we are down by three points, five, or 10, let's play ball."
Avon Park couldn't get anything going in the first quarter. The Devils managed only two points and went zero for five at the free-throw line. Even though they struggled to score, the Devils played hard on defense and only trailed 8-2 at the start of the second quarter.
With Lake Wales holding a 9-2 lead and the game nearing halftime, Avon Park's offense started to surge. Imani Tate hit two free throws and netted another basket to spur a 5-0 run and cut the Highlanders' lead to just two points.
Lake Wales' Roshetta Tomlin countered with a 3-pointer, Avon Park responded with a 6-0 run thanks to some key free throws to take a 13-12 lead.
The Highlanders weren't shaken, though, as they overcame both runs by the Devils to take a 20-17 halftime lead. Zada Williams paced Lake Wales into the break, scoring the final eight points of the second quarter.
Williams found her stroke early in the third quarter, netting the first six points to spark an 8-0 run that put the Highlanders up 28-17.
"I think the girls started to worry about the referees," said Lake Wales coach Demetrios Sanders. "More than anything in the first half about getting little fouls and you can't blame the referees for doing what they are supposed to do."
"That bothered them, we had a good talk at halftime and came out better in the second half. It is a little harder to get them to focus with their minds on the holidays and being no school today."
Avon Park struggled to find chemistry on offense in the second half. The Devils didn't score until there were three minutes left in the third quarter, and trailed the Highlanders 32-21 after three.
Lake Wales widen its lead to 15 in the fourth quarter when Williams and Takiba Tubbs drained a handful of baskets for the Highlanders.
Down 39-23, the Red Devils ended the game by netting the last two baskets to cut the deficit to 12.
Connie Dewberry led the Red Devils with nine points. Lake Wales was paced by Williams, who netted a game-high 21.
Lake Wales was the second of back-to-back losses for the Devils, and Daley said her team can win these contests if they just find some consistency.
"We have to play our posts, hang in there and rebound the ball," she said. "It's those and other inconsistencies that we just have to fix. I know it is hot in here and we played last night (a six-point loss to DeSoto), but nonetheless, it is the inconsistency we have to work on. We know certain things do not work so well, so we try to put the girls in scenarios that work best for the team."
Daley added that dubious fouls and turnovers also doomed Avon Park.
"You expect the errors and the mishaps," Daley said. "There is a lot of pressure on this squad and once that nucleus breaks up, so does our consistency, but we have to get past that."
Avon Park will have the rest of November off thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday. The Devils return to action on Thursday for a critical Class 4A-District 9 game against the McKeel Academy Wildcats. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. for junior varsity and 7:30 for varsity. The game is at Red Devils Gym.