Before Thursday's game, Heber Springs Coach Jamey Riddle said it's always a difficult task to win at Clinton.
Before Thursday's game, Heber Springs Coach Jamey Riddle said it's always a difficult task to win at Clinton. This time was no different as the No. 4 ranked Lady Panthers found themselves trailing by one point early in the fourth quarter before closing the game with 15 unanswered while pulling away for a 39-25 victory over the Lady Yellow Jackets in 2-4A Conference play. Early in the fourth quarter, Clinton center Nicole Sykes gave the home team a brief lead with a short leaner off a baseline drive but Heber responded by outscoring the 'Lady Jackets 15-0 in the final six minutes, starting with a free throw from forward Janae Long. With the score tied at 25-all, guard Devrie Attendorn swiped a steal near midcourt and drove in for a layup, then guard Skylar Johnson picked off the ensuing inbound pass and dished to twin sister Hannah Johnson for a layup as the Lady Panthers used their full-court pressure to gain some breathing room. Both teams endured a scoring drought over the next two minutes until Long broke through with a free throw and Skylar Johnson added two more from the line, extending the Lady Panthers' lead to 32-25 with 2:35 remaining. Skylar Johnson hit two more free throws after a steal by Long, Attendorn added a free throw and forward Makenzie Martin turned an offensive rebound into two more foul shots. Holding a comfortable 37-25 lead entering the final minute, Hannah Johnson came away with a steal, which led to a pair of free throws by Skylar Johnson, capping Heber's victory. Heber led 11-6 after one quarter of play. Trailing 6-4 midway through the first stanza, the Lady Panthers closed the period with a 7-0 spurt ignited by Long, who scored in the paint off an assist from Skylar Johnson. Attendorn drained a three-pointer from left elbow and Skylar Johnson added two free throws, pushing Heber's lead to 11-6 entering the second quarter. The Lady Panthers maintained their advantage until late in the first half when Clinton used a quick 5-0 run to tie the game as Sykes scored inside off a lob pass, guard Kaitlyn Weaver slashed down the middle of the lane for a layup and guard Hannah Stoltzfus added a free throw. Knotted at 15-all heading into the third quarter, Stoltzfus and Hannah Johnson exchanged three-pointers before Heber snatched the lead on a driving bank shot by Skylar Johnson, who also drew contact. After Johnson completed the three-point play, Long hit a leaner in the lane, giving the Lady Panthers a 23-18 lead. But Clinton refused to go down quietly as Stoltzfus drilled a three-pointer from top of the key and Sykes scored off a lob pass from Weaver, while Long notched a free throw for Heber, which took a 24-23 lead to the final eight minutes of play. Sykes paced Clinton with 10 points, Stoltzfus followed with seven and Weaver contributed six. Long scored a game-high 13 points for Heber (17-2, 8-0), Skylar Johnson added 11 and Attendorn finished with six.