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.
Page 2 of 2 - 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.