It wasn't always pretty, but certainly effective as Heber Springs punched its ticket to the Class 4A State Tournament.
It wasn't always pretty, but certainly effective as Heber Springs punched its ticket to the Class 4A State Tournament. The No. 4 ranked and top-seeded Lady Panthers crushed fourth-seeded Pocahontas on the offensive glass and created turnovers in bunches while surviving a sluggish shooting performance for a 38-28 victory over the Lady Redskins on Wednesday in the first round of the 4A East Regional Tournament at the Panther Den. “It wasn't the prettiest game but I thought our defense carried us a little bit and rebounding carried us,” said Heber Coach Jamey Riddle. “We got several rebounds and we really limited them for the most part and we got some second chance opportunities on the offensive end.” Pocahontas played a tight man-to-man defense, while Heber fell back from its full-court pressure with a stifling 1-3-1 zone defense. “They pushed us out a little bit and didn't allow us to run some of our stuff we usually run, but I thought our defense really stepped up and we never really got rattled,” said Riddle. “Even though we couldn't get shots to fall when we needed to we never got rattled and just kept playing.” Heber took the lead for good at 4-2 early in the first quarter when guard Hannah Johnson picked a steal and finished with a driving layup. After Pocahontas guard Laura Junkersfeld hit a free throw, the Lady Panthers struck with six quick points, starting when guard Skylar Johnson snared a loose ball in heavy traffic and scored while drawing contact. Moments after Johnson completed the old-fashioned three-point play with a free throw, Heber guard Devrie Attendorn nailed a three-pointer from right corner off an assist from Skylar Johnson, boosting the Lady Panthers' lead to 11-3 and forcing the Lady Redskins to use a timeout with 2:27 left in the first period. Pocahontas closed the first quarter with four straight as Kate Junkersfeld drove right side for a layup and Laura Junkesrsfeld found post player Hannah Lakey inside for a basket, leaving Heber with an 11-7 lead entering the second quarter. Heber opened the second stanza with a 5-0 spurt, beginning when Hannah Johnson hit Skylar Johnson, who finished with a tough shot over two defenders. Skylar Johnson added a three-pointer up top off an assist from guard Courtney Reed as the Lady Panthers suddenly extended their lead to 16-7, but Pocahontas stayed in contention by responding with a 5-0 spurt. Kate Junkersfeld's three-pointer from right corner off an assist from Laura Junkersfeld completed the Lady Redskins' 5-0 spurt and pulled them within four before both teams endured a two minute scoring drought. With 1:21 left in the first half, Heber forward Makenzie Martin turned an offensive rebound into a free throw. Then, with time winding down in the first half, Martin pulled down another offensive rebound and sank a 12-foot jumper at the buzzer, pushing the Lady Panthers' lead to 19-12 at halftime. Heber held Pocahontas to only four field goals in the first half and seven for the entire game. “We did a good job of jumping out in the passing lanes,” said Riddle. “I am sure they don't see a lot of 1-3-1 defense up there so that may have thrown them off a little bit seeing a new defense. “And a lot of times teams don't have a whole lot of different offenses to run against a 1-3-1, so they have to stay with a lot of basic stuff. Hannah is long and can get out there at the top and with Skylar and Janae [Long] on the wings, that makes it pretty hard to get a pass around,” added Riddle. Long opened the third with a dazzling spin move and layup from right side and Skylar Johnson turned a steal into a free throw as the Lady Panthers opened up a 10-point advantage. Following a pair of free throws by Pocahontas guard Courtney Baltz, Long scored in transition off an assist from Skylar Johnson then Attendorn hit a floater from left baseline. Laura Junkersfeld countered with a three-pointer from right elbow off an assist from Baltz before Skylar Johnson turned a steal into a free throw, giving Heber a 27-17 lead entering the final eight minutes of play. The Lady Redskins whittled their deficit to seven early in the fourth quarter as guard Kari Presley sank a free throw and Baltz added two more. After Martin responded with a pair of free throws for Heber, Kate Junkersfeld slashed right side for a layup, leaving Heber with a 29-22 lead. At the midway point of the fourth quarter Hannah Johnson sank two from the charity stripe then Attendorn drove left side and finished with a difficult shot over two defenders as Heber pushed its lead to 11 and Pocahontas never seriously threatened down the stretch. Laura Junkersfeld and Kate Junkersfeld each scored seven to lead Pocahontas, which finished its season with a record of 16-14. Attendorn scored a game-high 12 points for Heber (25-3), while Hannah Johnson finished with eight and Skylar Johnson added seven. Heber beat Brookland 58-36 in the semifinals, setting up tonight's championship game against Valley View. Opening tip is set for 7 p.m.