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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Owls clip Panthers in state quarterfinals

  • McGehee’s Owls threw everything but the bus at senior Tanner Rockwell on Friday night but simply couldn’t stop him as the Heber Springs forward scored a game-high 41 points while making 9-of-13 shots from the field.

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  • McGehee’s Owls threw everything but the bus at senior Tanner Rockwell on Friday night but simply couldn’t stop him as the Heber Springs forward scored a game-high 41 points while making 9-of-13 shots from the field.
    However, the Owls surprised Heber with eight three-pointers and scored one bucket late in the game off a lucky deflection in a 59-55 victory that ended the Panthers’ season in the quarterfinals and sent McGehee to the semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament at the Panther Den.
    Jonesboro Westside, who gave Heber (49-41) its only other loss in the past 16 games in the 4A East Regional championship, defeated the McGehee 59-44 in Saturday’s semifinal round, which leaves Clarksville and Jonesboro Westside traveling to Hot Springs for the championship game. Clarksville beat Farmington 58-50 in the other semifinal game on Saturday.
    Panther Coach Kevin Kyzer took over Heber Springs two seasons ago and has been through many highs and lows with state tournament teams at East Poinsett County, but he said none compared to the feeling after this loss. “I’ve been in some bad locker rooms and that is absolutely the worst tonight,” said Kyzer. “It didn’t end how they wanted it to end. It just wasn’t our night tonight. We deflect the ball and it goes to them for a layup…it just didn’t bounce our way. Tanner got clocked to the floor, Austin [Brown] got shouldered on a shot. We didn’t get calls. We had a lot of late shots roll in and out. We had a lot of things that didn’t go our way and we didn’t play well enough to over come it.”
    Kyzer has a lot of respect for the seniors that helped Heber reach a new level since moving to Class 4A. Rockwell, Michael May, Anthony Brown, Roko Miocic and Jimbo Bodron all suited up for the final time for Heber. “To lose these seniors along with last year’s group is tough. They’ve really got this basketball program going and have tolerated me through it all and that is not easy to do.”
    Kyzer continued, “I’m talking 7:30 practices at night. I know they thought I was insane the first two or three weeks I was here. I love them so much I just hate to see that locker room so bad. This is a tough group to let go of…and I am proud of them,” said a very emotional Kyzer. “What they’ve done for this program is phenomenal. The kids here in town look up to them and they helped build this program for future years.”
    Kyzer said he has watched seven films of McGehee in past games this season and never saw them shoot as good as Friday night.
    Page 2 of 3 - The game was tied seven different times and the lead changed hands five times in the first half, including at the halftime buzzer when Maurice Hudson made his only basket of the game –  a heavily defended 27-foot shot from left wing that nearly brought rain.
    McGehee took an early 2-0 lead when Zach Ellis sank a 16-foot jumper from left baseline but Heber fired back with an 8-0 run as Michael May drilled a three-pointer from right corner then Rockwell buried a trey from right corner.
    Rockwell scored off a steal by Judson Smith as the Panthers snatched an 8-2 lead before Malcolm Curry drove right side for a layup. After Austin Brown knived into the lane and completed an old-fashioned three-point play, Ellis grabbed an offensive rebound and drove coast-to-coast for a layup and Curry drained a three-pointer from right wing, suddenly leaving Heber with an 11-9 advantage.
    McGehee tied the score when Curry came up with a steal that led to a follow shot in transition by Kendall Lambert, but Rockwell countered with a three-pointer from right wing off an assist from Austin Brown.
    Heber pushed its lead to 15-11 on a free throw from May but Curry drove left baseline for a layup and Dontez Racy swiped a steal and bolted to the goal for a layup, tying the score at 15-all going into the second quarter.
    McGehee claimed the lead early in the second when Racy popped a three-pointer from top of the key but Rockwell answered with a three-pointer from left wing and May made a pair of free throws before Rockwell nailed another trey   – this time from right corner as the Panthers took a 23-18 lead.
    Lambert fired back with a three-pointer from right wing then Ellis recorded a putback before Austin Brown found Rockwell backside and he finished over two defenders. On Heber’s next possession, Austin Brown pulled down an offensive rebound and hit Rockwell, who drilled a three-pointer from right wing to give the Panthers a five-point cushion.
    Racy responded with a trey up top and Tronsayne Ellis added a bucket deep in the paint as the Owls tied the score before Austin Brown blew past his defender for a layup. Zach Ellis retaliated with a driving finger roll but Rockwell made two from the stripe before Hudson’s high-arcing, desperation three-pointer at the buzzer gave the Owls a 33-32 lead at halftime.
    Heber reclaimed the lead early in the third quarter as Rockwell drove right baseline and hit a leaner while drawing contact and he completed the three-point play, then Anthony Brown darted past his defender for a layup.
    McGehee jumped back in front with a 7-0 run, sparked by Lambert’s hanger in the lane. Lambert added a three-pointer from left wing in transition, then Zach Ellis stripped a steal at mid-court and glided to the hoop for a layup, giving the Owls a 40-37 lead.
    Page 3 of 3 - Following a Heber timeout with 3:11 left in the third quarter, both teams hit a drought until Austin Brown ripped a three-pointer up top, leaving the score tied at 40-up entering the final eight minutes of play.
    Austin Brown followed his own miss for a basket as the Panthers took the lead early in the fourth quarter but Zach Ellis found Lambert inside for two and Racy drained a three-pointer from right elbow.
    With the Heber crowd in frenzy for the final 5:00, Tronsayne Ellis made a free throw and Lambert added two more before Rockwell hit two from the line at the 2:42 mark, cutting Heber’s deficit to 48-44.
    After Anthony Brown drew a charge, Rockwell made two more from the line to pull Heber within a bucket. With the gym in a roar, McGehee missed its next two free throws but got lucky when two Heber players collided while going for the rebound, which resulted in a basket for the Owls.
    With 2:00 remaining, Curry sank two free throws but Rockwell responded with a pair from the stripe despite battling an injury to his  jaw. After Racy and Curry each made 1-of-2 free throws, giving McGehee a 54-48 lead, Heber gave McGehee one last scare as May picked a steal and hit Rockwell for a layup to keep the Panthers alive.
    Following a free throw by Tronsayne Ellis, Rockwell hit a very difficult fade way shot from left wing, then Austin Brown stole the inbound pass and missed a three-point attempt but Rockwell got a putback, leaving McGehee clinging to a 56-54 lead.
    With 13.3 seconds left, Racy delivered two clutch foul shots to seal the game. Austin Brown turned an offensive rebound into a free throw then Curry added one from the line as the Owls pulled out a 59-55 win.
    Racy led McGehee, which finished the season with a record of 23-3, with 14 points. Curry followed with 13, Zach Ellis had 11 and Lambert added 10 for the Owls.
    Following Rockwell’s game-high 41 points, Austin Brown added seven and May chipped in five for the Panthers, who wrapped up their season with a record of 26-8.
     

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