Heber Springs junior guard Skylar Johnson proved to be the best player on the court on Friday night, pouring in a game-high 28 points and swiping 10 steals while leading the No. 4 ranked Lady Panthers to a 56-33 rout of Lonoke on Senior Night at the Panther Den.
“The last couple of minutes she [Skylar] was on the bench talking about it and I sat down and said you know our frustration now in trying to get you to do this all the time,” said Heber Springs Coach Jamey Riddle, who has led the Lady Panthers to three consecutive 2-4A Conference championship.
“This year she has been kinda up and down after playing pretty consistent last year. She stepped up and played well tonight and hopefully she will continue to do that from here on out,” added Riddle.
Johnson scored 16 points in the first quarter alone, including six points off steals as the Lady Panthers used a frenetic full-court press to cause the Lady Jackrabbits trouble.
Skylar's twin sister and backcourt mate Hannah Johnson added four points in the first quarter, including a layup off a backdoor cut in the closing seconds, extending Heber's lead to 18-8 heading into the second quarter.
Heber busted the game wide open by outscoring Lonoke 12-3 in the second quarter, beginning when forward Makenzie Martin scored off a back cut and assist from senior guard Devrie Attendorn, who has started since her sophomore season.
After Martin canned a pair of free throws, Hannah Johnson turned a pair of steals into breakaway layups and forward Janae Long flipped an offensive rebound into two foul shots, widening the gap to 28-8.
Long then scored from left block off an assist from senior guard Courtney Reed, who joined Attendorn in the starting lineup for Senior Night, but Lonoke post player Eboni Willis repsonded inside, leaving the Lady Panthers with a 30-11 lead at halftime.
Similar to the first quarter, Skylar Johnson and Hannah Johnson put on a show for the large crowd in the third quarter as the duo combined for all 13 of Heber's points, including eight by Skylar and five from Hannah, who drilled a three-pointer from right elbow late in the period for a 39-18 lead.
After Lonoke guard Jerralyn McCall slashed left side and hit a short pull up bank shot, Skylar Johnson quickly answered in transition then Martin came up with a steal that led to a rebound bucket by Hannah Johnson, giving Heber a 43-20 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The two teams traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter, both scoring 13 points. Heber got a lift from post player Mary Lawrence, who completed an old-fashioned three-point play off an assist from guard Skye Miller.
With both teams playing primarily reserves, Heber forward Adrianna Simmons buried a jumper in the lane before Lonoke forward Riley Rowton scored inside, setting the final at 56-33.
Page 2 of 2 - “Lonoke is one of those teams that plays with a lot of intensity but I felt like we were really involved in the game. We played a step ahead tonight,” said Riddle.
Willis led Lonoke (13-14, 7-8) with 13 points and McCall added seven.
Following Skylar Johnson's game-high 28 points, Hannah Johnson finished with 13 and Martin added six for the Lady Panthers, who improved to 23-3 overall while wrapping up conference play with a record of 13-1.
Heber's only league loss came at Newport, which will host this week's district tournament. The Lady Panthers lost at Newport by one point after a controversial call led to a late free throw.
“When that game was over up there at Newport and we were in the locker room I said my new goal now is to play them again in the district finals at their place. Of course we have to take care of business in the semifinals first.”
Heber, which received a bye to the semifinals due to winning the conference, is scheduled to open district play on Thursday at 7 p.m.