Junior point guard Austin “Red” Adkins and the Heber Springs Panthers were suffering through a dreadful shooting outing last Wednesday as visiting Stuttgart appeared ready to steal a 2-4A Conference game at the Panther Den.
However, with time running out and the Panthers down by two, Adkins delivered a three-pointer from right elbow extended, lifting Heber to a remarkable 36-35 win over the Ricebirds.
“I was close to calling a timeout,” said Heber Coach Kevin Kyzer of the final sequence. “But, I felt pretty good when I saw [Michael] Kramer head backdoor and it drug the wing in and gave Austin just enough daylight.
“His shot was so flat today it was barely getting 10 feet high. But, Austin has hit some clutch shots and he had no hesitation on pulling the trigger on that one. That's the way 'Red' is. He has no conscience,” added Kyzer.
Stuttgart (1-5, 0-1) led 24-22 entering the fourth quarter and quickly pushed its lead to five on a steal and layup by guard Drelon Ice and free throw from forward Alante Stewart.
Following a timeout with 5:57 remaining, Heber responded with four straight as guard Judson Smith found guard Waren Thomas Olmstead flashing right side for a layup, then forward Michael Kramer scored off a driving scoop in traffic.
The Ricebirds countered with a 5-0 spurt as guard Herman Hampton turned a steal into a pair of free throws and Stewart completed an old-fashioned three-point play after grabbing an offensive rebound.
With Stuttgart leading 32-26 and only 2:47 left to play, Heber whittled its deficit to a bucket with four straight free throws from Kramer, including two following a steal by Olmstead.
Ice found Hampton for layup in transition but Smith fired back with a three-pointer from right wing, slicing the Ricebirds' lead to one with 44.6 seconds left.
Stewart hit 1 of 2 free throws to give Stuttgart a 35-33 advantage with 27.5 seconds left and the Panthers took their time, working the ball around the perimeter as the clock ran down.
Kramer's cut to the basket took some attention off Smith, who momentarily bobbled the ball up top before passing to Adkins, who launched the shot with just over five seconds remaining.
The stunned Ricebirds called timeout with 3.3 seconds left but never got a shot off as the Panthers celebrated the improbable victory.
“We got out of here with a win but we realize we have a lot to work on,” said Kyzer. “As Coach Nolan Richardson used to say 'I'll take a raggedy ride to a win over a loss any day.'
Adkins scored five points in the first quarter and Kramer added two free throws while Stewart scored seven for the Ricebirds, leaving the game tied at 7-all entering the second stanza.
Page 2 of 2 - Heber used a 6-0 spurt to take command in the second period as Smith drilled a three-pointer from left wing then Smith popped another trifecta from right wing, both off assists from Adkins, giving the Panthers a 13-7 lead.
But, using a deliberate offensive attack, Stuttgart forged a tie after guards Dewaine Minter and David Andrews each connected from beyond the arc, while the Ricebirds held Heber scoreless in the final five minutes of the first half, leaving the score tied 13-all at intermission.
Stuttgart built a two possession lead midway through the third quarter but Heber hung tight and jumped on top with a 6-0 spurt, starting when Kramer caught the ball on the left block, where he finished with a strong reverse layup, plus contact.
After Kramer completed the three-point play, Olmstead nailed a three-pointer from right wing, giving the Panthers a two-point lead before Stewart scored four straight, including a baby hook shot that sent Stuttgart to the fourth quarter with a two-point lead.
Stewart led Stuttgart with a game-high 18 points and Hampton added six. Kramer collected 14 points to pace Heber, which improved to 5-2 overall and 2-0 in 2-4A games heading into last weekend's Riverview Classic. Smith added nine points and Adkins finished with eight.