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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Lady Panthers overcome slow start, top Clinton

  • Heber Springs erased a 13-3 first quarter deficit on its way to a 57-49 win over 2-4A Conference rival Clinton on Thursday.
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  • Heber Springs erased a 13-3 first quarter deficit on its way to a 57-49 win over 2-4A Conference rival Clinton on Thursday.
    With 3:37 remaining in the first quarter, Clinton post player Nicole Sykes converted an old-fashioned three-point play as the Lady Yellow Jackets' lead grew to 13-3, causing Heber to call for timeout.
    The Lady Panthers, who improved to 2-0 in league play, clawed back in the game by closing the first quarter with a 9-0 run sparked by forward Mary Lawrence, who canned two free throws.
    Guard Hannah Johnson followed with five consecutive points, including a three-pointer out front and guard Skylar Johnson turned a steal into a pair of free throws, trimming Clinton's lead to 13-12 entering the second quarter.
    "It always feels like when you come over here you are down six or eight points anyway because it's always a big game no matter what the records are," said Lady Panther Coach Jamey Riddle. "We finally bounced back, made some shots and midway through the first and second quarter I thought we played a fairly decent game."
    Heber used an 9-0 spurt to take the lead early in the second quarter as Hannah Johnson unloaded with two three-pointers and a follow shot, but Clinton countered by closing the period with a 9-3 run behind seven points from Sykes, who completed an old-fashioned three-point play to give Clinton a 25-24 lead at half.
    Tied at 32-all late in the third quarter, the Lady Panthers snatched the lead when gaurd Madeline Spanel notched a putback and guard McKenzie Cresswell turned a steal into a pair of free throws.
    Forward Makenzie Martin hit two free throws and forward Alison Thomas added an old-fashioned three-point play as Heber extended its lead to 41-34 before Sykes scored off a strong drive in the closing seconds, leaving the Lady Panthers ahead by five entering the final eight minutes of play.
    With Heber leading 43-36 early in the fourth quarter, Clinton guard Hannah Stoltzfus drilled a three-pointer from left wing, which ignited a 7-0 run that concluded with a bucket by Sykes off an assist from guard Kaitlyn Weaver.
    Knotted at 43-all with just over four minutes left, Heber regained control when Hannah Johnson drilled a three-pointer from right corner off an assist from Skylar Johnson, who moments later picked a steal and scored.
    Clinton guard Tori Johnson responded with a three-pointer from right elbow, but the Lady Panthers refused to lose as Spanel turned an offensive rebound into a free throw.
    Spanel's second free throw attempt caromed off the rim but Martin came down with an offensive rebound and scored, boosting Heber's lead to 50-46 with just over two minutes remaining.
    Page 2 of 2 - Leading by three, Martin pulled down a defensive rebound and drove coast-to-coast for a layup, plus contact. Martin completed the three-point play for a 53-47 lead, which Heber never relinquished.
    "We would get up and let them back in it," said Riddle. "In the second half we had some girls come off the bench like Alison Thomas and Madeline Spanel that gave us some good minutes with Hannah Johnson and Mary Lawrence picking up some fouls. Alison Thomas did a great job down the stretch as far as defense. We finally got a few stops with Clinton's big girl (Sykes) and we leaned on Makenzie Martin on offense and she was able to make some things happen for us."
    Sykes scored a game-high 23 points for Clinton (3-4, 0-1), while Stoltzfus added 15 and Johnson had eight.
    Hannah Johnson paced Heber (6-3, 2-0) with 20 points, Skylar Johnson followed with 12 and Martin finished with 11. Also for the Lady Panthers, Thomas had five points and Spanel added three while Lawrence, Cresswell and forward Mary Simmons each contributed a basket.

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