Heber Springs junior forward Mason Schroeder scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, lifting the Panthers past Marianna-Lee's Trojans 56-49 on Tuesday night in 2-4A Conference play at the Panther Den.
Schroeder certainly had plenty of help. “We had everybody playing hard and Mason had a big game,” emphasized Heber Coach Chris Yielding. “He was finishing inside and made some good moves. We made the free throws down the stretch and everybody played big rebounding wise and defensively. It was the most complete game we have played in a while.”
Schroeder continues to progress with his stability in the paint after suffering an injury that left him on the sideline for the first half of the season. “After that injury it has taken some time for him to get back in rhythm but the last few games we've seen it,” said Yielding. “I was hoping for a big game from him tonight and he didn't let me down. He played really well.”
Handling the Trojans' full-court pressure and playing stout defense helped the Panthers avenge a road loss to the Trojans. “I was telling the guys that if we make them play us in a half-court offense we have a shot. They are not going to beat us in a half-court game most of the time,” said Yielding.
“They put some pressure on us and we went through stretches where we would have couple of turnovers and give up a couple of buckets, but then we would regain our composure and fight through it.”
Marianna took a 12-7 lead late in the first quarter on a slashing finger roll by guard Marquis Cooper, but
Heber guard Judson Smith responded with a deep three-pointer from left wing, cutting the Panthers' deficit to a basket heading into the second quarter.
Down 12-10, Heber outscored the Trojans 17-13 in the second quarter, beginning when Schroeder used a spin move to split two defenders and he finished with a leaner in the lane.
Cooper and backcourt mate Evert Perkins drained consecutive treys for the Trojans, but Heber forward
Aaron Brown quickly responded with a deep three-pointer from right elbow.
Cooper sliced into the lane for a layup as the Trojans took a 20-15 lead before Heber used a 9-0 run to take control, starting when forward Michael Kramer hit a midrange jumper from right wing in transition.
Brown popped a deep three-pointer from right wing to tie the score at 20-all, causing Marianna to call for timeout.
The Panthers' run would continue following the break in action as Schroeder scored from right block then Kramer slithered down left baseline for a layup.
With Heber leading 24-20, Marianna broke its drought when Cooper swiped a steal and scored but
Page 2 of 3 - Schroeder caught the ball on the left block, used a quick spin move to split two defenders and scored while absorbing contact.
After Schroeder completed the three-point play with a free throw, Marianna guard Paul Hansberry ripped a three-pointer out front, leaving the Panthers with a 27-25 lead at halftime.
Heber extended its lead to four at 39-35 heading into the final quarter by outscoring Marianna 12-10 in the third period as Kramer, Smith and Brown each drained a three-pointer, while Schroeder added an old-fashioned three-point play.
The Trojans took a 35-33 lead late in the third quarter on two treys from Perkins, but Smith countered with a three-pointer from left elbow and Brown nailed a deep three-pointer from left wing off an assist from guard Austin “Red' Adkins.
After closing the third quarter with a 6-0 spurt, Heber continued its momentum into the fourth quarter as Schroeder scored four straight, including two free throws and a jumper from the charity stripe, boosting the Panthers' lead to 43-35.
Hansberry kept the Trojans' hopes alive with a three-pointer from left elbow, but Schroeder responded with five more, including two free throws and a three-pointer up top off an assist from Adkins.
Marianna guard Mario Coffey quickly answered with a trey from left corner then Trojan forward Kadarious Richardson scored off a cut to the basket, trimming the Panthers' lead to 48-43 midway through the final stanza.
Schroeder canned a pair of free throws to give Heber some breathing room but Cooper scored inside before Smith whipped a crosscourt pass to Kramer, who caught the ball in traffic and finished deep in the paint while drawing contact.
Kramer completed the three-point play, giving Heber a 53-45 lead, but the Trojans battled to the end as Perkins drained a 19-foot jump shot from top of the key then Coffey picked a steal and flushed a one-handed slam dunk, his second of the evening.
Clinging to a 53-49 lead, Adkins, who finished with eight assists, canned two crucial free throws and Smith added one more from the stripe, while the Panthers played solid defense to close out a seven-point victory.
Cooper led Marianna (7-6 in 2-4A) with 13 points, Perkins added 11, Coffey had nine and Hansberry finished with eight. Following Schroeder's game-high 23 points for Heber (13-9, 7-6), Brown followed with 11, Kramer added 10 and Smith chipped in seven.
The victory ended a three-game losing streak, all on the road, and kept the Panthers in the race for a bye in the 2-4A District tournament, which starts next week at Newport.
Tonight the Panthers host second-place Lonoke for Senior Night. Smith is the lone senior starter.
“It's going to come down to what happens Friday (tonight) with us and Lonoke and the Newport-Marianna game. Part of it is in our hands,” said Yielding.
Page 3 of 3 - “If we can beat Lonoke we can secure a fourth seed but if we don't it depends on what happens with the Newport-Marianna game. We will be fifth seed at the lowest but we are trying to get that fourth seed so we will only have to win one game to get to regionals,” added Yielding.
Fans are encouraged to wear white for tonight's final regular season home game.