Heber Springs forward Mason Schroeder set an early tone with his offense and helped the Panthers withstand a late surge by Southside Batesville with two crucial blocks as the Panthers pulled out a 43-39 victory over the Southerners on Tuesday in 2-4A Conference action at the Panther Den.
Schroeder, who finished with a team-high 17 points, opened the game with two consecutive three-pointers, both launched from left elbow.
Heber Coach Kevin Kyzer said Schroeder is returning to basketball shape after sitting out the first half of the season with an injury.
“His legs are under him more now. He is still having trouble holding his ground on the post but we are going to work on that with some block to block screens to free him up a little bit and get him deeper [in the defense].
“Mason is good with that turnaround jumper too and he made some huge ones tonight so it's a good thing he is back and played well tonight,” Kyzer continued. “We didn't shoot the three well at all tonight and we got some good looks. I hope we can mesh together now that we have our whole team together. I know it's late in the season but we have three weeks to go into district peaking. We are working hard in practice, installing some things with Mason that we had worked on during the preseason.”
Moments after Schroeder's two treys, forward Michael Kramer popped a three-pointer from left wing off an assist from guard Austin “Red” Adkins as Heber pushed its lead to 9-1, however, that would be the Panthers final three-pointer of the game.
The Southerners began to chip away, eventually closing the gap to four points heading into the second quarter when guard Stephen Norris hit an off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer.
Southside forward Trey Sisk canned a pair of free throws to pull the Southerners with a bucket early in the second quarter, but Kramer fired back with a strong driving scoop shot while drawing contact.
Kramer completed the three-point play for an 18-13 lead but Norris hit an off-balance shot in heavy traffic before Schroeder scored five straight, starting with a turnaround bank shot, plus a foul. After Schroeder capped the three-point play with a free throw, the 6-5 junior scored again, this time spinning past a double team for a layup.
Adkins followed with a strong drive for a layup, plus the foul and he completed the three-point play as the Panthers used an 11-2 run to build a 26-15 lead.
In the final two minutes of the first half, Southside forwards Tanner McGuire and Jake Henderson each scored inside, while Heber managed a free throw from Kramer as the Southerners sliced the Panthers' lead to single digits.
Page 2 of 2 - Heber extended its lead to 29-19 early in the third quarter when Adkins used a quick crossover to freeze his defender before driving to the basket for a layup but Southside refused to go away.
Following a free throw from Henderson and a driving layup by Norris, Schroeder made the play of the night. With his back to the basket, Schroeder banked home a sweeping hook shot from right side but the Southerners quickly countered with a three-pointer from Norris.
Kramer responded with a 19-foot jump shot from right wing before Norris chalked up a pair of free throws, leaving the Panthers with a 33-27 lead entering the final eight minutes of play.
Southside opened the fourth quarter with a 4-0 spurt as Norris posted up on left block, whirled around and finished deep in the paint then guard Taylor Ellis picked a steal and drove 65 feet for a layup.
Suddenly only holding a two-point lead, Heber guard Judson Smith drove into traffic and dropped a floater but Norris retaliated with a step-back three-pointer from right wing, trimming the Panthers' lead to one at 35-34.
Schroeder sliced down the middle of the lane and finished with a finger roll then Schroeder drew a double team and dished to forward Aaron Brown cutting baseline for a layup, boosting the Panthers' lead to five.
Henderson kept the Southerners' hopes alive with a driving layup but Adkins answered with a strong drive for two then Schroeder swatted a shot, which led to a pair of free throws from Smith as the Panthers began to taste victory, leading 43-36.
Norris ripped a three-pointer from top of the key and Heber missed the front end of a one and one but Schroeder slammed the door with an emphatic block, which caromed off a Southside player, giving Heber possession with just over five seconds remaining.
Norris scored a game-high 20 points for Southside (1-7 in 2-4A) and Ellis added eight, including two three-pointers in the first quarter. Following Schroeder's team-high 17 points, Adkins and Kramer each scored nine for the Panthers, who improved to 12-6 overall and 6-3 in league play.