Panthers resilient despite 0-4 start

November 10, 2019


Heber Springs coach Chad Johnson never put his finger on pushing the panic button despite the Panthers starting the season at 0-4.

Johnson said the players, a majority who played football, continues to make the transition from the gridiron to the court, and he sees light at the end of the tunnel.

Heber Springs came close to that first win Thursday, falling to South Side Bee Branch, 50-49, at the Joe Mallett Classic in Conway.

“It was a battle,” Johnson said. “We trailed by 11 points in the first half and chipped away. We trailed by one point with 16 seconds left in the game. South Side had the ball and turned it over with 13.5 seconds to go. We got a good shot that rimmed out. We got the rebound and shot again, but it was blocked out of bounds with no time left.”

Heber Springs played tough competition, starting the season five days after the football playoffs The Panthers hosted Riverview, then played at Clinton and then played two games at the tournament.

The four opponents have winning records and a combined record of 21-9.

“I’m pleased with the team’s progress, especially against South Side,” Johnson said. “We could have folded by losing the first four games, but they didn’t. We are battling every game to the end. I’m proud of the players for doing that. We have a tough schedule and no creampuffs.”

Johnson said the players have improved, thanks to focusing on basketball, and he expects success to come soon.

“We are working on shooting at every practice,” he said. “We need more players contributing with scoring. We are playing good defense and our endurance is increasing. The players are playing with intensity for the entire game. They are playing with more energy, enthusisam and desire.”

Johnson said playing good competition will benefit the team in the long run.

“Our early schedule has been an eye opener and pushed the players to get better quickly,” he said. “We don’t have much height and must take advantage of our speed. We are excuting better on offense and need to make more shots. I’m pleased where we are right now.”

Heber Springs will open the Conference 4-4A schedule at Dover on Tuesday.

“Our conference is very tough, but we have a strong will to win,” Johnson said. “Four teams advanced deep in last year’s playoffs. That shows the strength of our conference. There are no weak teams.”

Johnson said work remains, but the team is capable of meeting the challenge.

“We must improve our shooting, but we also need improvement in all areas of the game,” he said. “We have players who want to win games and they are willing to put in the effort to be successful. We can do that with hard work.”

(PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This story was posted after Heber Springs’ opening 4A-4 conference game on Tuesday. The Panthers won 37-32. McCarty will have story later on about Tuesday’s win by the Panthers.)

4A-4 RECORD: 1-0
November 21 - Riverview 68, Heber Springs 36
November 26 - Clinton 71, Heber Springs 35
December 3 - Conway St. Joseph 44, Heber Springs 21 #
December 5 - South Side Bee Branch 50, Heber Springs 49#
December 10 - Heber Springs 37, Dover 32 ^
December 13 - at Marshall
December 16 - at White County Central
December 20 - Ozark ^
December 26 - Cowboy Chevrolet Holiday Classic
December 27 - Cowboy Chevrolet Holiday Classic
December 28 - Cowboy Chevrolet Holiday Classic
January 7 - Pottsville ^
January 10 - at Subiaco Academy ^
January 14 - Dardanelle ^
January 17 - at Clarksville ^
January 21 - Morrilton ^
January 24 - Dover ^
January 28 - at Pottsville ^
January 31 - at Ozark ^
February 4 - at Dardanelle ^
February 7 - Subiaco Academy ^
February 11 - at Morrilton ^
February 14 - Clarksville (Senior Night) ^
February 17 - 4A-4 District at Dardanelle

(# - Denotes Conway St. Joseph Tournament)
(^ - Denotes 4A-4 conference contest)