With only eight total players and missing two returning starters, Heber Springs trailed Riverview 41-32 entering the fourth quarter last Tuesday in the Panthers' home opener.
With only eight total players and missing two returning starters, Heber Springs trailed Riverview 41-32 entering the fourth quarter last Tuesday in the Panthers' home opener. They needed somebody to step up off the short bench and aid the five starters, whose hustle and tenacity helped keep the game within striking distance for the first 24 minutes. Junior swingman Spencer Grogan filled that role, delivering a huge 19-foot jump shot in the final minute and the Panthers hit 10-of-10 free throws down the stretch, holding on for a 59-53 victory over the Raiders. “Spencer Grogan became a player in the fourth quarter,” said Heber Coach Kevin Kyzer. “He has never gotten a lot of playing time from seventh grade until now. He has been a late bloomer and I really think he grew up tonight. All six guys that played did what we told them to do and in the end I think it was just the mental toughness.” Grogan, who scored all four of his points in the fourth quarter, made one of the biggest shots of the night but it would have meant little without junior forward Aaron Brown's two three-pointers during the Panthers' 10-0 spurt. After Heber (3-0) opened the final stanza with a 10-0 run while suddenly taking a 42-41 lead, Riverview (0-1) regrouped as guard Kirkland Pettis hit two free throws then guard Desmond Pettis drained a three-pointer from left wing. Brown answered with his third three-pointer of the fourth quarter but power forward Rashard Bailey dropped a pair of foul shots for Riverview, giving the Raiders a 48-45 lead with 1:37 remaining. Heber junior guard Waren Thomas Olmstead made two free throws as the Panthers pulled within a point, then with Riverview stalling, point guard Austin “Red” Adkins forced a five-second violation, hounding the ball handler at the top of the key to force a huge turnover. Trailing by one, Grogan's 19-foot jumper from right wing off an assist from senior guard Judson Smith gave Heber the lead, which they never relinquished. Following two free throws from Brown, Adkins stripped a steal that he turned into a pair of free throws, pushing the Panthers' lead to 53-48 with 33.7 seconds remaining. Olmstead hit 4-of-4 free throws in the closing seconds and Smith added two more from the charity stripe for the Panthers, who finished 28-of-35 from the line to help capture a 59-53 victory. The Panthers jumped out to a 15-11 lead in the first quarter behind five points from Brown and four points apiece from Smith and Adkins, while Olmstead contributed a bucket. Bailey helped the Raiders outscore Heber 8-7 in the second quarter by scoring all eight of the visitors' points, trimming Riverview's deficit to 22-19 at halftime. Riverview opened the third period with a 14-2 run, taking a 33-24 lead when Bailey threw down a two-handed slam. Heber battled back with a Brown three-pointer followed by a tough hanging shot in the lane from Olmstead. With Heber trailing by four, Riverview post player Josh Harris scored inside and Desmond Pettis ripped a three-pointer from left wing at the buzzer, boosting the Raiders' lead to 41-32 going into the final eight minutes of play. Heber outscored Riverview 27-12 in the fourth quarter to pull out the comeback victory. Kyzer said his first team set the bar high, making the program expect to win, particularly at home. “I credit the 2009 team setting the tone. After that Marianna game the first year I was here, the guys believe they are going to win, especially at home. We have lost very few games here. Our last regular season loss here was Riverview two years ago. “These guys don't feel like they are supposed to lose in the Panther Den and they just sucked it up and found a way to get it done. Judson Smith was such a great leader, keeping them encouraged and battling all night. They hit a couple of shots and started believing they could come back when they got it down to six, added Kyzer. Desmond Pettis and Bailey led Riverview with 18 points apiece, while Kirkland Pettis added eight. Brown scored a game-high 21 points for Heber, Olmstead followed with 13 points, Adkins had 11 points and Smith contributed 10 points. After visiting Mayflower for a non-conference game last night, the Panthers will not play again until Tuesday, Dec. 4 when lake area rival Clinton visits town for the 2-4A Conference opener. Heber's original 2-4A home opener scheduled Friday against Stuttgart has been postponed due to the Ricebirds advancing to the state semifinals in football. The game will be played Wednesday, Dec. 12.