Piling up championships at this rate, Heber Springs Coach Jamey Riddle has a good problem.
Piling up championships at this rate, Heber Springs Coach Jamey Riddle has a good problem. Where to put all the trophies considering the old gym's case is jam-packed? The three-time defending 2-4A Conference champion Lady Panthers added more hardware to their growing collection on Saturday with a 54-46 victory over host Newport in the finals of the 2-4A District Tournament. Ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, the Lady Panthers (25-3) entered the championship game with revenge on their mind after falling to the Lady Greyhounds by one point in a controversial finish on Jan. 29. Riddle, whose team has won five straight entering this week's 4A East Regional Tournament, said last week it's a team goal to go back to Newport and bring home the championship. “It wasn't the prettiest game in the world, but that's probably how it should be with this type of game,” said Riddle. Newport does a lot of different things so we had to be ready for it. “Defensively, I thought closing out on their shooters was key and we finally got some rebounds that we couldn't get in the second quarter. I thought Devrie [Attendorn] stepped up and had a big game. She had been struggling a little and Mary Lawrence had some big rebounds,” added Riddle. Heber took a 4-3 lead early in the first quarter on a stick back by forward Makenzie Martin, sparking a 9-0 run. Guard Hannah Johnson followed with a three-pointer off an assist from guard Skylar Johnson then Martin notched two consecutive rebound buckets. Trailing 11-3, Newport forward Khnedee Finch pulled down a rebound and scored, pulling the Lady Greyhounds within six at 11-5 heading into the second quarter. Hannah Johnson hit a pull up jumper in transition and guard Devrie Attendorn added a three-pointer from left wing as the Lady Panthers pushed their lead to 16-7 before Newport guard Dashyrah Ellis sank a free throw. After Attendorn beat her defender down left baseline for a layup, Newport responded with a 10-0 run completed by forward Tyrena Friar, who grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, tying the score at 18-all. In the final minute of the first half, Heber ended Newport's run when Hannah Johnson found Martin for a layup, plus a foul. Martin completed the three-point play, extending the Lady Panthers' lead to 21-18 at intermission. Down 25-20 after a bucket deep in the paint by forward Janae Long off an assist from Skylar Johnson, the Lady Greyhounds used a 7-2 spurt to tie the game midway through the third quarter. Tied at 26-26, Long responded with a baseline drive for a layup, which ignited an 8-0 run that continued when Attendorn snared an offensive rebound and dribbled out to the right wing, where she buried a three-pointer. Hannah Johnson turned an offensive rebound into a pair of free throws and Long flipped a steal into another foul shot as the Lady Panthers' lead grew to 34-26 before Friar recorded a putback, trimming Heber's lead to six heading into the final eight minutes of play. Newport quickly cut its deficit to one early in the fourth quarter with a 5-0 spurt, highlighted by a three-pointer from left corner by guard Taelahs Williams. Following a timeout, Johnson scored inside off a baseline inbound play, but the Lady Greyhounds suddenly snatched the lead as Williams drilled a three-pointer and guard Nunnah Lee sliced right side of lane for a layup. Trailing 38-36, post player Mary Lawrence scored from right block off an assist from Attendorn then Skylar Johnson picked a steal, eased down the floor and promptly drained a three-pointer up top. Newport tied the score at 41-all when Williams ripped another three-pointer, but Heber maintained its composure as Skylar Johnson buried a 19-foot jumper from top of the key and Hannah Johnson turned a steal into two free throws. The Lady Greyhounds pulled within a bucket on a steal and layup from Lee, but from that point, with 2:00 remaining, Heber used suffocating defense and consistent rebounding to put the game away. Leading 46-43 after Hannah Johnson sank a free throw, Skylar Johnson swiped a huge steal, which she converted into two more free throws, giving Heber a 48-43 lead with 55 seconds left. Lawrence pulled down a defensive rebound, which led to a pair of free throws by Hannah Johnson as Heber pulled away down the stretch. Lee led Newport (18-8) with 14 points, Williams followed with nine, Finch finished with eight and Friar added seven. Hannah Johnson paced Heber with a game-high 18 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Martin recorded 10 points, Skylar Johnson added nine – all in the fourth quarter, while Attendorn chipped in eight and Long had seven. The top-seeded Lady Panthers open 4A East Regional Tournament play today at 4 p.m. versus fourth-seeded Pocahontas at the Panther Den – around the corner from the Lady Panthers' two latest trophies, which curently sit side-by-side on Riddle's desk, waiting for a new trophy case projected to be constructed in the next year.