Heber Springs won its third straight game while keeping its season alive with a 39-29 victory over Marianna-Lee in the 2-4A District Tournament Tuesday in Newport.
Heber Springs won its third straight game while keeping its season alive with a 39-29 victory over Marianna-Lee in the 2-4A District Tournament Tuesday in Newport. “Going into that game you know you've got to win that one to be playing in regionals next week and we are hosting so we really, really needed to get a win last night,” stressed Panthers' Coach Chris Yielding. “We were able to pull it out. We beat Marianna a week ago and it's tough to beat a team two times in a row but the kids came out and fought hard.” The fourth-seeded Panthers (15-9) got off to a slow start, trailing 6-3 after the first quarter, before taking their first lead with a 6-0 run in the second quarter. Heber's run started with a baseline drive by guard Austin “Red” Adkins, who then found forward Mason Schroeder for a layup moments before forward Michael Kramer notched a strong putback. The fifth-seeded Trojans reclaimed the lead when guard Paul Hansberry drained a three-pointer up top, but Heber closed the first half with five straight, including two buckets from Schroeder, who got a putback then he cut back side and scored off an assist by Kramer. Heber continued to look inside in the second half, while the Trojans settled for a plethora of three-point attempts. “Going into it we were prepared for the three because when we played them at their place they hit 10 or 11 threes on us,” said Yielding. “They like to shoot a lot of them so I knew we were going to have to defend the three.” With Marianna utilizing a 1-3-1 half court trap, Yielding said it was hard for Heber's outside shooters to get a good look at the basket. “We didn't have a whole lot of open looks. We might have shot five or six threes and we only hit one of them. Mason had a big game inside. They don't have a lot of size so they spread out the floor and took away the three so we had to adjust our tactics,” added Yielding. Leading 14-11 at halftime, Adkins poured in seven points in the third quarter, including a three-pointer as Heber built a comfortable cushion. But Marianna suddenly pulled within two late in the third quarter on consecutive three-pointers by Hansberry, whose second trey from the corner trimmed the Panthers' lead to 26-24 heading into the final eight minutes of play. Heber pushed its lead to six midway through the fourth quarter as Adkins and Schroeder each made a free throw and forward Aaron Brown added a runner in the lane. The Trojans sliced their deficit in half with a three-pointer before Heber guard Judson Smith canned two free throws then drew a huge charge, which led to a pair of free throws by Adkins, boosting the Panthers' lead to 34-27 with 2:52 remaining. Smith added four more free throws down the stretch, while Brown also connected from the charity stripe as Heber pulled away for a 39-29 victory, setting up a semifinal game versus top-seeded Dollarway, which is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A. Hansberry led Marianna with 11 points. Adkins paced Heber with a game-high 12 points, Schroeder followed with nine, Kramer had seven and Smith finished with six – all in the fourth quarter from the foul line. If the Panthers beat Dollarway on Thursday, they advance to the finals, where they will face the winner of Lonoke and Southside Batesville at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Newport.