Heber Springs sophomore forward Mackenzie Martin poured in 14 of her game-high 18 points in the second half as the Lady Panthers pulled away from Stuttgart 44-31 last Wednesday in 2-4A Conference play at the Panther Den.
Behind 19-17 at halftime, Heber Coach Jamey Riddle said a little halftime encouragement helped his team shake the cobwebs from a long layoff.
“It had been almost a week since we played last so I think it took a little while for us to get back into rhythm.
“Maybe me chewing them out at halftime might have helped just a little bit but we finally started playing. We had a great week of practice but it just wasn't transferring over to the game. So what we talked about at halftime was picking the intensity up,” added Riddle.
Stuttgart outscored Heber 8-4 in the first quarter as guard Tiffany Gipson closed the period with two straight buckets, giving the Lady Ricebirds an early advantage.
Heber guard Hannah Johnson recorded two rebound baskets in the first quarter, helping the Lady Panthers stay close.
The Lady Panthers opened the second quarter with a 6-0 run, starting when Martin pinned her defender and scored from left block. Following a free throw from guard Devrie Attendorn, post player Janae Long hit a leaner while drawing contact and she completed the three-point play for a 10-8 lead.
Stuttgart responded with four consecutive free throws as guard Mariah Allen and Gipson each hit a pair from the stripe but Attendorn fired back with a three-pointer from right wing.
The Lady Ricebirds jumped back on top with a 5-0 spurt, including three points from guard Haley Johnson, but Heber quickly tied the game with two free throws from Martin followed by a basket from guard Skylar Johnson, who snared a loose ball kept alive by Martin and hit a jumper.
Holding for the final shot of the first half, Stuttgart post player Kassandra Hogan drove right side of the lane for a layup, giving the Lady Ricebirds a 19-17 lead at halftime.
Martin opened the third quarter with a tough shot from left block over two defenders but Stuttgart quickly retaliated with six straight on two three-pointers from Allen, who nailed one from deep on right wing then another from left corner off an assist from Johnson.
Trailing 25-21, Heber blitzed Stuttgart with a game-changing 11-0 run beginning when Attendorn sliced down left baseline for a layup. Skylar Johnson then scored four straight on a steal and layup and short jumper, tying the game at 25-all.
That's when Martin caught fire, scoring six straight, including two turnaround jumpers inside the foul line and a midrange jump shot from right baseline in transition.
Heber post player Mary Lawrence turned an offensive rebound into a free throw, completing the Lady Panthers' 11-0 run.
Page 2 of 2 - Stuttgart finally responded when Hogan hit a midrange jumper from right baseline, leaving Heber with a 32-27 lead entering the final eight minutes of play.
Stuttgart trimmed its deficit to three on a leaning bank shot from Gipson but Attendorn came back with four straight for Heber then Martin went on a tear with eight consecutive points, starting when she grabbed a rebound, drove the floor and hit a pull up shot in the lane.
Martin added another bucket off an assist from Attendorn as the Lady Panthers beat Stuttgart's full-press for a bucket and 40-29 lead, which grew by two more points when Martin found Hannah Johnson cutting backdoor for a layup.
Martin added a driving leaner in the lane as the Lady Panthers used a 12-0 run to blow the game wide open, taking a 15-point lead. Stuttgart's Aalia Willams recorded a stick back in the final minute, setting the final at 44-31.
Allen paced Stuttgart (4-3, 0-1) with 10 points and Gipson added eight.
Following Martin's game-high 18 points, Attendorn had 10 points for Heber (7-1, 2-0), while Hannah Johnson and Skylar Johnson each scored six.
“She is one of those that when she finally gets going and gets woke up a little bit, she can play with anybody in the conference if not the state,” said Riddle when asked of Martin's stellar play. “She may still have a little sophomore in her as far as confidence but I know she can do it and I am just glad she did tonight.”