By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
The season’s first win didn’t come easy for the Heber Springs Panthers.
Heber Springs went on a 19-4 third-quarter scoring run and pulled away with a 55-41 nonconference basketball win against the Shirley Blue Devils at the Panther Den Tuesday.
The Panthers trailed late in the second quarter, but Bauer Pruitt’s 3-pointer with seconds left sent the team into the dressing room with a 28-27 halftime lead. Heber Springs led 47-31 going into the fourth quarter.
Heber Springs ended a 24-game losing streak. The last win came at Dover (37-32) on Dec. 10, 2019.
“These guys have been through so much for the past two weeks,” coach Dusty West said. “The players kept fighting after they played three tough opponents (Batesville, Greenbrier and Guy-Perkins). We took our licks in those games. The players showed their maturity and composure.”
Ryan Crocker led a balanced scoring attack with 11 points for the Panthers. Conner Riddle and Gus Hannah each had eight points. Nash Little scored a game-high 17 points for Shirley. Arrick Nowell contributed nine points.
“It was a fun night, and they deserved this win,” West said. “The players refused to lose. Before the game, I drew a line on the board and told the players we will do what is needed to get across this line.”
Heber Springs held a four-point for most of the first quarter. Shirley tied the game at 7-7 midway through the quarter before back-to-back 3-pointers by Crocker and Zach Thomas broke the deadlock. Shirley pulled to within 13-12, but the Panthers answered and held an 18-13 lead going into the second quarter.
The Blue Devils remained close and took their first lead on Little’s 3-pointer, 26-25, with 1:30 left in the first half. Little made 1-of-2 free throws before Pruitt’s 3-pointer gave Heber Springs a 28-27 halftime lead.
“Our depth was a factor in the second half,” West said. “Shirley had two good shooters, and we did a good job defending them. This was a good way to go into Thanksgiving.”
Heber Springs (1-4) will return to action by hosting Conway St. Joseph at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“It will be a challenge and a tough matchup,” West said. “The players are hungry after getting that first win.”
Shirley 13 14 4 10–41
Heber Springs 18 10 19 8–55
Shirley scorers — Nash Little 17, Arrick Nowell 9, Hunter Bradford 8, Alex Eoff 5, Trey Mattison 2.
Heber Springs scorers — Ryan Crocker 11, Conner Riddle 8, Gus Hannah 8, Logan Monahan 6, J.T. Spears 5, Austin Winchester 5, Dakota Farmer 4, Zach Thomas 3, Bauer Pruitt 3, Harley Breshanan 2.