Four Heber Springs starters fouled out in an epic triple overtime battle with Riverview. But the Lady Panthers kept plugging, using strong fundamentals, acute awareness and a little luck to edge the Lady Raiders 62-61 last Tuesday in the home opener at the Panther Den.
After the Lady Raiders missed several opportunities to put the game away in regulation and beyond, Heber held for the final shot with the score tied in the third overtime period.
A crosscourt pass floated in the direction of guard Skye Miller looked like it could turn into a steal and layup for Riverview but Miller alertly met the pass, causing the potential steal to turn into a foul and chance for victory.
With six seconds left, Miller missed the front end of the two-shot bonus but sank the second foul shot and Riverview (0-1) never got a shot off as Heber (3-0) celebrated the victory.
Heber Coach Jamey Riddle said he talked with the team at halftime about meeting the ball in order to limit turnovers. “One thing I talked about at halftime was going to meet the pass like Skye did. In the last two minutes of the second quarter we didn't rebound and we didn't go meet our passes and our passes weren't very good. Skye did the right thing by going to meet the pass and not giving up a turnover right there. I am proud of her for stepping up and making one out of two free throws right there,” added Riddle.
Two critical steals by junior guard Skylar Johnson led to Miller's game-winning free throw. Trailing 47-45 in the fourth quarter, Johnson stole Riverview's inbound pass from behind and hit sophomore forward Makenzie Martin in stride for a layup, sending the game to overtime.
“Skylar is one of those that picks up on a lot of things during the game,” said Riddle. “That is probably something she picked up on and felt like she could get a hand in there. She is pretty savvy about stuff like that and has a lot of basketball smarts.”
In the first overtime period, the Lady Raiders led 51-50 and were stalling with one minute remaining when Johnson stripped a steal near mid-court and drew a foul on a drive to the basket.
Johnson hit both free throws as Heber jumped on top but Riverview guard Alexis Baker hit a foul shot and the
Lady Raiders came up with a stop on the defensive end. Baker then pulled down an offensive rebound and drew a foul with less than one second left.
Heber caught a break when Baker misfired on both free throws, leaving the game tied at 52-all entering the second overtime.
Down by two, Heber kept battling late in the second overtime period as senior post player Janae Long made a free throw. Long missed the second but Miller came away with the loose ball, keeping the possession alive while trailing by one.
Page 2 of 3 - The Lady Panthers snatched the lead when sophomore guard McKenzie Cresswell found Miller cutting backside for a layup but Riverview forward Meg Meachum drew a foul with 12.8 seconds left.
Meachum uncharacteristically missed both free throws but forward Erykah Johns tracked down the rebound and drew a foul with 7.7 seconds remaining. Johns misfired on her first attempt but sank her second foul shot, knotting the score at 58-all and sending the game to a third overtime.
In the third overtime, the Lady Raiders took the first lead on a putback from post player Aryanna Watson. Heber junior guard Hannah Johnson countered with a three-pointer from left elbow but Watson dropped a free throw for a 61-61 tie with 1:36 remaining.
Following two defensive stands by Heber, which included two more missed free throws by Riverview, the Lady Panthers worked the ball around the perimeter until Miller was fouled and made the winning free throw.
“I think a key strength for us this year is depth,” said Riddle. “We had four foul out and we had three or four come off the bench that knew exactly what to do. Even though Skye only played three or four minutes in the first half, she stepped up just like all of them did there at the end.”
Heber led 15-7 after the first quarter as Martin poured in six points and senior guard Devrie Attendorn added five points, while Long and Hannah Johnson each had two points.
But, Riverview outscored the Lady Panthers 18-12 in the second quarter behind six points from Watson and five more from Meachum as the Lady Raiders pulled within a bucket at 27-25 going to the locker room.
Riverview edged Heber 7-5 in the third quarter, tying the game late in the period on three consecutive points from Johns, including a midrange jumper from left baseline.
Tied at 32-all entering the fourth quarter, Heber quickly built a 38-32 lead with a 6-0 spurt as Cresswell hit a pull up jumper and Martin knocked down a jump shot from right elbow, while Long and Skylar Johnson each made a free throw.
After both teams endured a scoring drought, Riverview used a 6-0 run to tie the score but Heber reclaimed the lead on a pair of free throws from Martin.
Both teams exchanged the lead down the stretch with Heber taking a two-point advantage when Long buried two free throws. But, Meachum nailed a deep three-pointer from right corner and the Lady Raiders came up with a stop on the defensive end.
With Riverview leading by one, Meachum was intentionally fouled with 14.1 seconds remaining in regulation. She made one of two for a 47-45 lead but Skylar Johnson stole the inbound pass leading to Martin's layup as
Page 3 of 3 - Heber tied the game and eventually won in three four-minute overtime periods.
Johns, who scored six points in the first overtime, paced Riverview with 17 points. Meachum followed with 14 points, Watson added 12 and guard Dymond Smith chipped in 11, including nine free throws.
Martin led Heber with 17 points, Long pumped in 15, Attendorn added 11, Hannah Johnson had seven and Miller contributed five.
After visiting Mayflower for a non-conference game last night, the Lady Panthers will not play again until Tuesday, Dec. 4 when 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 on Wednesday, Dec. 12