Heber Springs twin sisters Hannah Johnson and Skylar Johnson literally stole the show, turning several steals into easy baskets while combining for 25 points as the Lady Panthers rolled to a 41-21 victory over lake area rival Clinton on Tuesday in the 2-4A Conference opener at the Panther Den.
Heber Springs twin sisters Hannah Johnson and Skylar Johnson literally stole the show, turning several steals into easy baskets while combining for 25 points as the Lady Panthers rolled to a 41-21 victory over lake area rival Clinton on Tuesday in the 2-4A Conference opener at the Panther Den. “It's good to start off 1-0 [in conference] especially against Clinton because a lot of people have them picked to be in the Top 3 in the conference,” said Heber Coach Jamey Riddle. “I am most proud of beating that caliber team in conference.” Riddle said the Lady Panthers' defensive plan was to keep a close eye on Clinton 6-2 center Nicole Sykes, who has a huge height advantage over most defenders. “Defensively it was pretty easy tonight what we needed to do,” said Riddle. “We needed to stop [Sykes] inside. We knew she was going to get some [points] and touch the ball but I felt like we wore her down more than anything with Janae [Long] and Mary [Lawrence] just constantly on her. She didn't get near as many touches in the second half.” After both teams endured a slow start in the first quarter, Hannah Johnson swiped a steal and scored but Sykes responded inside off a lob pass. Heber then scored six consecutive, starting when Long split two defenders and scored in the paint. Lawrence came away with a steal and hit Skylar Johnson for a layup then Hannah Johnson picked a steal and scored, boosting the Lady Panthers' lead to 8-2 as Clinton called for timeout with 3:36 left in the opening stanza. Clinton pulled within three on a three-pointer from guard Hannah Stoltzfus but Heber forward Makenzie Martin responded with a pair of free throws as Heber took a 10-5 lead to the second quarter. Sykes and Long traded a pair of baskets early in the second quarter then Hannah Stoltzfus drove right side for a layup and Sykes scored in a crowded lane, plus contact. Sykes complete the three-point play as the Lady 'Jackets tied the game at 14-all before Heber closed the first half with a 4-0 spurt. Heber reclaimed the lead on Skylar Johnson's 19-foot pull up jumper in transition. Moments later Skylar Johnson canned a jump shot from left elbow off an assist from Hannah Johnson, pushing the Lady Panthers' lead to 18-14 at halftime. Heber, which held Highland to only one point on Saturday in the second half of a first-round victory at the Lyon College Invitational, limited the Lady 'Jackets to only seven points in the second half. Clinton pulled within three early in the third quarter on a free throw from Sykes but the Lady Panthers countered with a 13-0 run, sparked by Skylar Johnson, who recorded a putback following a steal by Hannah Johnson. Martin added a short jumper from right side off an assist from Lawrence then Hannah Johnson ripped a three-pointer from left wing off an assist from Martin. Hannah Johnson, who scored nine straight, swiped a steal and hit a short pull up jumper then picked a steal and drove to the hoop for a layup. Hannah Johnson then scored her fourth bucket in a span of three minutes when Skylar Johnson came away with a steal and found her twin sister for a layup and a 31-15 lead. Late in the third quarter, Clinton ended its drought with a bucket from Sykes off an assist from Hannah Stlotzfus. Leading 33-19 midway through the fourth quarter, Long scored from left block off an assist from Hannah Johnson, who then made a dazzling play in transition, looking off a defender as she drove to the basket for a layup. Heber post player Bridget Muse added two late baskets, including one off an assist from Hannah Johnson, as Heber cruised down the stretch. Hannah Johnson scored a game-high 17 points and contributed five assists, while Skylar Johnson and Long each scored eight points to lead the Lady Panthers (6-0, 1-0), who host Stuttgart on Wednesday in a make-up game at the Panther Den. Sykes (14 points) and Hannah Stlotzfus (seven points) combined to score all of Clinton's points. The Lady 'Jackets dropped to 2-6 overall and 0-1 in 2-4A conference play.