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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Lady Panthers bound for state tournament

  • With the state tournament at stake, the Lady Panthers came through in the clutch on Thursday in the opening round of the 4A East Regional Tournament.
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  • With the state tournament at stake, the Lady Panthers came through in the clutch on Thursday in the opening round of the 4A East Regional Tournament.
    Down by one Heber Springs called a timeout with 21.9 seconds left and executed coach Jamey Riddle’s play to perfection. Point guard Skylar Johnson found forward Makenzie Martin cutting to the basket for a layup as the Lady Panthers pulled out 52-51 victory over Cave City.
    Shooting guard Hannah Johnson who led the Lady Panthers in scoring this season, served as a decoy on the play, helping to space the floor.
    “It’s a play we’ve got in and we were trying to go away from Hannah [Johnson] and set a back pick,” said Riddle. “They weren’t helping off Hannah, they were going to guard her so we were able to run it. They helped off on it and that allowed Martin to be wide open. We didn’t want to go to plan B, which was to run another play because they had called some moving screens on us. It was a good job by the girls executing the play.”
    Cave City hit a slew of three-pointers including six by guard Morgan Miller to narrowly defeat Heber in the first game of the season. The Cavewomen took a different approach this time, pounding the ball inside to post players Jamie Holley and Shyanne Price.
    “They kinda flip flopped,” said Riddle. “We covered up their shooters for the most part but it allowed them to go one on one with Mary Lawrence and they’ve got a couple big post players. Mary Lawrence did a decent job, Alison Thomas came in off the bench and did a decent job, especially in the second half.
    “This is the type win I’ve been looking for from the girls. I feel like the first half wasn’t really going our way but in the second half the girls did a good job of putting it in the past and they really played hard and they totally deserve this win,” added Riddle.
    Cave City led 12-10 after the first quarter and 25-23 at half behind a combined 16 points from Holley and Price, but the Lady Panthers hung tight as Skylar Johnson poured in 10 points in the first half, including an 18-foot jumper that pulled Heber within a bucket heading to the locker room.
    The Lady Cavewomen extended their lead to 31-25 early in the third quarter on two free throws by Price, but Lawrence notched a putback. After Price responded with a short jumper off an assist from forward Vashti Crick, Lawrence made a smooth spin move into the lane, where she found a crease for a layup.
    Page 2 of 4 - Holley scored from left block to push Cave City’s lead to 35-29, but Hannah Johnson answered with a jumper in the lane then Skylar Johnson curled around a screen and sank a jumper from the foul line off an assist from Lawrence.
    Cave City guard Morgan Miller countered with a three-pointer from right wing before Martin knocked down a jump shot from left baseline off as assist from forward Mary Simmons.
    Forward Gracen Ratliff canned a pair of free throws to extend the Cavewomen lead to five at 40-35 with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter, but Heber came storming back behind Hannah Johnson, who scored seven points in the final two minutes.
    Johnson’s barrage started with a three-pointer launched up top then she sank a jumper following a steal by Simmons. Hannah Johnson added a runner that initially stuck on the rim, before falling though as the Lady Panthers snatched a 42-40 lead entering the final eight minutes of play.
    Price hit a baby hook shot from right block to tie the score with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Hannah Johnson fired back with a bank shot from left elbow and forward Mary Simmons sank a midrange jumper from right wing off an assist from Skylar Johnson.
    With Heber leading 46-42 and two minutes left to play, Holley sank a bank shot from right side then Ratliff picked a steal and scored as the Cavewomen suddenly tied the game but Hannah Johnson answered, drilling a 19-foot jumper from right wing in transition.
    Miller countered with a deep three-pointer from right wing as Cave City regained the lead with under a minute to play, but Heber bounced back once again when Lawrence scored from right block off a baseline inbound play.
    Holley gave the Cavewomen their final lead, answering with a basket from right block before Martin’s bucket pushed Heber back in front to stay as Cave City missed badly on a late three-point attempt.
    Holley scored a game-high 17 points for Cave City, which ended its season with a record of 25-7. Price followed with 15 points, Ratliff added eight and Miller chipped in six for the Cavewomen.
    Hannah Johnson paced Heber (22-6) with 15 points, Martin added 13, Skylar Johnson had 12 and Lawrence finished with 10. Simmons only made one basket, but it was a big one midway through the fourth quarter.
    “That was huge and she also came up with a couple big steals,” said Riddle. “I thought she really played well in the second half. That’s the Mary I’ve been looking for. She caught it and it looked like she had shot it a thousand times and it went in so I’m glad she stepped up and did that.”
    Page 3 of 4 - Heber vs. Valley View
    Valley View forward Ashleigh Guthrie proved hard to stop, pouring in a game-high 31 points, including 23 in the second half as the Lady Blazers topped Heber Springs 60-46 on Friday night in the semifinals of the 4A East Regional Tournament.
    Heber finished 15 of 46 from the field, 4 of 12 beyond the arc and 13 of 15 at the charity stripe. Valley View sank 18 of 36 shot attempts, including 4 of 8 from three-point land – 3 of 3 in the second half. The Lady Blazers made 18 of 31 free throws – 14 of 21 in the second half.
    Valley View, which jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead, built a 13-2 advantage before the Lady Panthers began to chip away while holding the Lady Blazers scoreless over a span of five and a half minutes.
    Shooting guard Hannah Johnson closed the first period with five consecutive, sinking a pull up jumper from the foul line and ripping a three-pointer up top at the buzzer to close the gap to 13-7 after eight minutes of play.
    Trailing 19-11 midway through the second quarter, Hannah Johnson hit two free throws and Martin added another, but Guthrie got a stick back before point guard Skylar
    Johnson scored four in a row, driving around a ball screen to get free for a jumper, then following her own miss and scoring in traffic.
    Valley View guard Darah Merrit sank a free throw with 3.7 seconds left in the first half, leaving the Lady Panthers with a 22-18 deficit at half.
    Merritt nailed a three-pointer on the Lady Blazers’ opening possession of the third quarter then Guthrie began to exploit the Lady Panther defense, scoring in a variety of ways, starting with a bucket inside off an assist from guard Harleigh Jones.
    Trailing 31-25, Hannah Johnson came up with a steal that led to a pair of free throws by forward Alison Thomas, who was fouled following an offensive rebound. Hannah Johnson came away with another steal, stayed with her miss and scored as the Lady Panthers pulled within a bucket before Jones drilled a three-pointer from right wing.
    Heber forward Makenzie Martin responded with a jumper from the foul line, but Guthrie pulled down a defensive rebound and drove coast-to-coast for a layup. Martin came right back with a putback.
    With Valley View clinging to a three-point lead, Guthrie closed the third quarter with a six straight, first turning an offensive rebound into a pair of free throws. Guthrie stripped a steal under the basket and scored then she came up with another steal and cruised to the basket for a layup, stretching the Lady Blazers a 42-33 lead entering the final eight minutes of play.
    Valley View put the game out of reach by opening the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run spurred by Merritt, who drained a three-pointer from right wing off an inbound play.
    Page 4 of 4 - Following Guthrie’s game-high 31 points, Jones added 12 and Merritt finished with nine for Valley View (27-5), which beat Brookland 57-50 in the regional championship game.
    Hannah Johnson pumped in 28 points to pace Heber, while Skylar Johnson had six and Martin chipped in five for the Lady Panthers (23-7), who defeated Lonoke in Saturday’s consolation game to earn the third seed in the 4A State Tournament, which begins today in Lonoke.
    Hannah Johnson scored 14 points to lead Heber past Lonoke.
    Weather permitting, the Lady Panthers open state tournament play at 1 p.m. Thursday versus Berryville, which earned the third seed out of the North Region.

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