Panthers’ season ends at regional tournament

IMG_6674_(2)
Heber Springs senior J.T. Spears delivers a pitch to a Farmington batter during Friday’s regional tournament at Morrilton. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

MORRILTON — The Heber Springs Panthers again couldn’t escape giving up one big inning.

Farmington, the top-seeded team for the Class 4A North Baseball Regional, scored five runs in the bottom of the third inning and pulled away to a 7-0 win in and quarterfinal game at the Devil Dog Yard Complex on Friday.
The Panthers finished the season with a record of 12-13.

“That has been one of the things we battled all year, getting over the one bad inning,” Heber Springs coach Ryan Bridges said. “We made a couple of errors and then Farmington had two base hits to drive runners home. Our pitchers threw well and executed the game plan of not throwing many fastballs. We kept them off-balanced most of the time. They took advantage of our mistakes.”

Farmington righthander Myles Harvey pitched a one-hit shutout and allowed six Heber Springs hitters to reach base. Harvey walked four and struck out 12 batters.

The Panthers’ only scoring threat came when they loaded the bases in the fifth inning. Ty West reached on an error, John McBroome was hit by a pitch and Zane Lozeau walked with one out. The inning ended on a double play.

“We didn’t hit much and when we did, it was right at the defense,” Bridges said. “The pitcher struck out 12 batters. It’s difficult to win when you strike out that many times.”

Farmington sent nine batters to the plate during the five-run fifth inning. Lawson DeVault’s RBI single started the rally. Luke Elsik and Case Enderland each singled before Michael White hit a 2-run double. Chase Brown drove home two runners with a base hit.

The Cardinals scored runs during the fourth and sixth on Enderland’s RBI single and an infield out.

Despite the loss, Bridges said the team progressed throughout the season and a bright future looms ahead.

“Considering our inexperience, we did all right,” Bridges said. “We played four freshmen, three or four sophomores and two juniors most of the time. We had three senior players, and I feel for them. They (seniors) helped to change the program.”

The Panthers achieved two of their season goals — avoid the play-in game for the conference tournament and qualify for the regional tournament.

Bridges said the goals will be higher next season.

“We’re looking forward to the future with our younger players,” Bridges said. “Expectations next year is to punch our ticket for the state tournament. We played better every game, but that one inning got us almost every game. Hopefully, we learn to finish games, get rid of the one bad inning and play clean seven innings.”

Heber Springs 000 000 0–0 1 2
Farmington       005 101 x–7 8 3
HEBER SPRINGS HITTERS: J.T. Spears single.
HEBER SPRINGS PITCHERS: J.T. Spears (LP) 5 hits, 6 runs, 1 earned run, 0 walks, 1 strikeout in 4 innings; Corbin Jones 3 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts in 2 innings.
FARMINGTON HITTERS: Lawson DeVault single, double, 1 RBI; Chase Brown 2 singles, 2 RBIs; Michael White double, 2 RBIs; Caden Elsik single, 1 RBI; Kyson Bridges single 1 stolen base; Luke Elsik single; Case Enderland 1 RBI, 1 stolen base.
FARMINGTON PITCHER: Myles Harvey (WP) 1 hit, 0 runs, 4 walks and 12 strikeouts.

Panthers advance to regionals, face conference champ in district

IMG_5252_(2)
Heber Springs freshman Liam Buffalo gets his cut at the plate last Saturday at the Heber Springs Sports Complex. The Panthers will face Morrilton today in the district tournament semifinals. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

POTTSVILLE – The pressure of qualifying for the Class 4A West Regional Baseball Tournament became a reality for the Heber Springs Panthers on Tuesday.

Freshman Liam Buffalo’s sacrifice fly broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth inning, the first of three runs. Buffalo then pitched the seventh inning, ending the game on a strikeout, as the Panthers clinched its first regional tournament berth since 2018 with a 3-2 win against Clarksville in the 4-4A district quarterfinals.

The Panthers (12-11) will play Morrilton (17-3) at 4 p.m. Thursday in the tournament semifinals.

“This game was filled with pressure, just like the first game at Clarksville (during the regular season),” Heber Springs coach Ryan Bridges said. “We had scoring opportunities early in the game. We had runners on second and third bases in the first inning and couldn’t score. We had a runner at second base with no outs and didn’t score during the second inning. We had a lead-off triple (by Kenan Sneed) in the third. We tried a suicide-squeeze bunt, but failed to score. We finally scored later in the game and held on to win.”

Sneed just missed hitting for the cycle with a single and double to go along with his triple and had an RBI. J.T. Spears had a single and double, plus an RBI. Corbin Jones contributed an RBI double.

Spears was the starting and winning pitcher. He held Clarksville to four hits, walked three and struck out three batters in five innings. Jones took over the pitching duties in the sixth before Buffalo answered the call in the seventh.

“J.T. pitched well again for five innings,” Bridges said. “We misplayed some balls during the sixth inning and Clarksville took advantage of the scoring opportunities. Clarksville loaded the bases against Buffalo in the seventh with two outs, but Liam struck out the last batter to end the game.”

Heber Springs’ focus now turns to regular season champion Morrilton, which won the only game between the two teams this year. But Bridges expects a different outcome against the Devil Dogs at the tournament.

“I told the players we were playing with house money because no one expected us to be here (district semifinals),” Bridges said. “We are already in the regional and now can play more relaxed. We will approach it like playing an another game and an opportunity to improve. If we do win, we will play in the final on Friday. Winning also would give us a better seed for the regional tournament.”

Bridges said he was undecided on Thursday’s starting pitcher, but it would probably either be Jones or Ty West.

Heber Springs 3, Clarksville 2
Heber Springs hitters: Kenan Sneed single, double, triple; J.T. Spears single, double, 1 RBI; Corbin Jones double, 1 RBI; Liam Buffalo 1 RBI, 1 stolen base.
Heber Springs pitchers: J.T. Spears (WP) 4 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts in 5 innings; Corbin Jones 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts in 1 inning; Liam Buffalo (Save) 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts in 1 inning.

Panthers fall to Ozark in 4-4A play

IMG_9593_(2)
Heber Springs’ Kenan Sneed. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Ozark rallied for four runs in the fourth inning and two runs in the fifth and defeated the Heber Springs Panthers 8-3 in a 4-4A Conference baseball game at the Heber Springs Sports Complex on Friday.

The Hillbillies (2-2 in 4-4A, 8-7 overall) are tied for third place with the win. Meanwhile, the Panthers (1-2 in 4-4A, 8-10 overall) slipped into a tie for fifth place with Pottsville (1-2 in 4-4A, 7-7 overall). Morrilton (3-0 in 4-4A, 12-1 overall) remains at the top of the standings, one game ahead of Dardanelle (2-1 in 4-4A, 9-5 overall) and Clarksville (2-1 in 4-4A, 7-4 overall).

Kayden McAnally led Ozark with three singles and a stolen base. Sterling Strick hit a single and a double with 3 RBIs. Dylan Herriage, who was the winning pitcher, had a 2-run double Herriage allowed nine hits and three run with seven strikeouts in 6 and two/third innings. McAnally relieved Herriage and got the final out in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Kenan Sneed had two singles and a double with one stolen base for the Panthers. Corbin Jones hit a 2-run double and Liam Buffalo had an RBI single in the fifth inning.

Jones, who was the starting and losing pitcher, scattered five hits and yielded five runs before Ty West relieved with one out in the top of the fourth inning. West pitched through the fifth inning. J.T. Spears finished with four strikeouts and allowed three hits and one earned during the final two innings.

Ozark took a 1-0 lead in the second inning before breaking the game open with four runs in the fourth. The Hillbillies added two runs in the fifth and scored one run in the seventh.

Heber Springs scored its runs in the bottom of the fifth.

Heber Springs resumes conference play at Clarksville on Tuesday and then it will host Subiaco Academy on Friday. The conference games will start at 4:30 p.m.

Ozark                   010 420 1–8 10 0
Heber Springs 000 030 0–3 9 1
Ozark hitters: Kayden McAnally 3 singles, 1 stolen base; Sterling Strick single, double, 3 RBIs; Dylan Herriage double, 2 RBIs; Spencer Lippott single, 2 RBIs; Richdan Case single, 1 RBI; Landon Wright single; Dax Shaffer single.
Heber Springs hitters: Kenan Sneed 2 singles, double, 1 stolen base; Corbin Jones double, 2 RBIs; Liam Buffalo single, 1 RBI; J.T. Spears single; Logan Lozeau single; John McBroome single; Preston Fitzpatrick single.
Ozark pitchers: Dylan Herriage (WP) 9 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts in 6.2 innings; Kayden McAnally 0 hits, 0 runs in .1 inning.
Heber Springs pitchers: Corbin Jones (LP) 5 hits, 5 earned runs, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts in 3.1 innings; Ty West 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 strikeout in 1.2 inning; J.T. Spears 3 hits, 1 earned run, 4 strikeouts in 2 innings.

Heber Springs blanks Pangburn in nonconference play, host Newport today

IMG_2813_(2)
Heber Springs sophomore Corbin Jones delivers a first-inning pitch against Pangburn. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs hopes a return to the Heber Springs Sports Complex leads to more success on the field.

The Panthers (2-4) began the season by shutting out Pangburn at home and won one of four games against at the Sheridan  Tournament.

Heber Springs started the tournament with losses to 6A Sheridan and 5A Searcy before the 6-0 shutout against Pangburn at home last Thursday. The Panthers lost to 6A Little Rock Catholic last Friday before a 14-9 win against Malvern in the tournament finale on Saturday.

On Monday, Heber Springs fell to Beebe 11-4. The Panthers are scheduled to host Newport at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and Batesville at 5 p.m. Friday.

“We played two tough games to start the season,” Heber Springs coach Ryan Bridges said. “We played them close, but unable to finish it at the end of the games. Against Pangburn, we got out on them early in the game. Pangburn was a good team and played at last year’s state tournament.”

Corbin Jones struck out three and allowed two hits in five innings. Ty West pitched the sixth and Xander Lindley relieved West in the seventh.

“Corbin did a good job and answered back from his first start,” Bridges said. “He threw 38 pitches through four innings and finished with 66 pitches. He got in a jam during the fifth inning, but got out of it. The other guys stepped up and finished the game. Ty pitched well and used his split-finger pitch and a change-up. Xander pitched his first game and did well, too.”

John McBroome led the Heber Springs offense with two singles. Liam Buffalo had two RBIs and Zane Lozeau had an RBI.

“We finally took advantage of opportunities with runners in scoring position,” Bridges said.

Pangburn          000 000 0–0 3 2
Heber Springs 010 230 x–6 4 1
Pangburn hitters: Braxton Butler single; Cole Ramsey single; Stephen Toumajan single.
Heber Springs hitters: John McBroom 2 singles; Liam Buffalo single, 2 RBIs; Kenan Sneed single; Zane Lozeau 1 RBI.
Pangburn pitchers: Braxton Butler 1 hit, 1 earned runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout in 1.1 inning; Trevor Evans 1 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 3 walks, 1 strikeout in 2 innings; Xander Kane 2 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts in 1 inning; Rhett Tharp 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk in 1.2 inning.
Heber Springs pitchers: Corbin Jones 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts in 5 innings; Ty West 0 hits, 0 runs, 2 strikeouts in 1 inning; Xander Lindley 1 hits, 0 runs in 1 inning.

Heber Springs’ season ends with loss in district tournament

IMG_0740_(2)
Heber Springs’ Eli Riggs reacts after a collision with Ozark’s Kyle Archer in 4-4A District Tournament action on Saturday at the Panther Den. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

One of the most successful basketball seasons for the Heber Springs Panthers in recent years came to a disappointing end on Saturday.

Ozark (7-18), which lost twice to the Panthers during the regular season, led from start to finish in a 38-20 win at the Panther Den in the play-in game for the 4-4A Conference tournament.

The Panthers (13-13) had the program’s best season record since the 2013-14 campaign when they finished at 18-9.

Heber Springs also showed more signs of progress by winning a tournament title (Mount Vernon-Enola Holiday Tournament) and four conference games. The Panthers had one conference win during the previous two seasons.

“I’m proud how the players brought into what I wanted them to do from the beginning of the year to the end,” Heber Springs first-year head coach Jordan Riley said. “We improved in a lot of areas. This was not how we wanted to end the season, but we did avoid a losing record. Before the season, most people didn’t feel we could do that”

Riley had been the former head girls coach at Southside Batesville for two years and rebuilt the program into a contender before taking over the Heber Springs program. Southside was 25-1 this season and won the 3-4A Conference championship going into postseason play. Riley never hesitated when the opportunity came to coach at Heber Springs.

“A lot of coaches thought I was crazy to leave a good team at Southside and come to Heber Springs,” he said. “I believe Heber Springs is where I’m suppose to be.”

At Saturday’s game, Braeson Peters, who made three 3-pointers, led Ozark with 13 points. Landon Wright, who connected twice on 3-point shots, scored eight points. Kyle Archer, who made one 3-pointer, had seven points. Jace Richard also had a 3-pointer.

“Ozark had players who made big shots,” Riley said. “Peters didn’t score in the first two games against us and made three 3-pointers. Our plan was to make players other than Wright and (Kayden) McAnally beat us. We did a good job guarding those two players (Wright and McAnally), but other players were making shots. Even as well as Ozark shot, we still held them to 38 points. We felt if we did that, we would have had a chance to win.”

Heber Springs struggled most of the game on offense and held to six field goals. The Panthers played catchup throughout the game and scored four points during the first half. Ryan Crocker, who made the team’s only 3-pointer, led with nine points.

“Ozark deserves a lot of credit for the way it played defense,” Riley said. “The 2-3 zone made it tough on us. We couldn’t dribble and create good shots against the zone. It was one of our worst shooting games of the year. Offensively, it was a tough game.”

Ozark’s Eli Masingale started the game with a field goal, followed by a 3-pointer by Wright for a 5-0 lead. Parker Brown scored the only points of the first quarter for the Panthers on an inside move. The Hillbillies scored the next eight points and took a 13-2 lead into the second quarter.

Ozark increased its lead on 3-pointers by Archer and Richard. Crocker stopped the surge by hitting a jumper as Heber Springs trailed, 19-5. Peters mad two free throws, giving the Hillbillies a 21-4 halftime lead.

Gavin Vaughn sank two free throws and a field goal by Crocket gave the Panthers a bit of life early during the third quarter. Ozark finished on a 7-1 scoring run and led 28-9 going into the fourth quarter.

“The loss hurt against a team we had defeated twice,” Riley said. “I felt we were going to win the game and move on in postseason.”

Despite the season-ending loss, Riley said the program made progress, and he hopes to keep everything going next season.

“I believe the guys will continue to work and keep improving,” he said. “We won one tournament during our best stretch of games. I thought that was going to give us momentum coming out of the Christmas break. We were unable to carry it forward.”

Riley said players will realize the good points from the season in the near future before turning their focus to next season.

“Coaches must make sure the players keep improving in the right areas and do what is best to move forward,” he said. “We will miss Ryan and Zach (Thomas). Zach came off the bench and provided leadership needed for the younger players. We have five of the top seven players coming back, plus younger players who are coming.”

Ozark                    13 8 7 10 -38
Heber Springs     2 2 5 11 -20
OZARK SCORING (38): Braeson Peters 13, Landon Wright 8, Kyle Archer 7, Eli Masingale 4, Kayden McAnally 3, Jace Richard 3.
HEBER SPRING SCORING (20): Ryan Crocker 9, Ladd Choate 4, Zach Thomas 3, Gavin Vaughn 2, Parker Brown 2.

Late run pushes Heber Springs past Clarksville

IMG_0351
Heber Springs junior Gavin Vaughn dribbles past a Clarksville defender in 4-4A action at the Panther Den. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Junior J.T. Spears turned in two pivotal second-half plays, one on offense and other on defense, and switched the momentum to the Heber Springs Panthers against Clarksville at the Panther Den on Saturday.

Heber Springs went on a 20-9 scoring run starting with 6:42 left in the third quarter before taking lead with 4:06 left in the game, and defeated Clarksville 54-49 in a Conference 4-4A basketball game.

Clarksville led Heber Springs 35-25 with 6:42 left in the third quarter. The key defensive play came when Spears drew a charge from Owen Ashlock with 2:42 to go as Clarksville led, 36-34. Spears gave Heber Springs the lead with 4:06 left in the game when he made a 3-pointer, 45-44.

Braxton Payne led Clarksville with 17 points, followed by Bush, who had 15 points, all of 3-pointers. Ashlock contributed 11 points.

“From the middle of the third quarter, we started to do a better job defensively,” Heber Springs coach Jordan Riley said. “No. 33 (Ashlock) and No. 3 (Bush) are good players and were hard to stop in the first half.”

The win kept Heber Springs (4-7 in Conference 4-4A, 13-11 overall) in position to avoid a play-in game for the conference tournament. Heber Springs will play at Pottsville on Tuesday in the regular season finale. Pottsville (3-7 in Conference 4-4A, 9-13 overall) and Heber Springs are tied in the loss column for fifth place. A win on Tuesday assures the Panthers of avoiding the play-in game.

Pottsville will end the regular season against Ozark at home on Friday. Clarksville (5-6 in Conference 4-4A, 10-12) is currently one game ahead of the Panthers in fourth place. A Clarksville loss to Morrilton at home on Friday would give the No. 4 seed to Heber Springs.

Gavin Vaughn, who hit three 3-pointers, scored 17 points for Heber Springs. Parker Brown added 16 points, 12 coming during the first half, and Ryan Crocker, who made two 3-pointers, had 14 points.

“I’m proud of how the guys worked throughout the game,” said Jordan when asked about his team’s comeback. “I kept telling them we can’t take any plays off or time to rest until the game was over. They made the right adjustments and answered the call. J.T. got us going when he took the charge and when hit made the 3-pointer.”

Heber Springs had struggled offensively by scoring 46 points combined in the last two games. Riley said contributions of more than one or two players were the keys to Saturday’s win.

“I was glad to see that,” Riley said. “That is what it is going to take because we can’t have just one or two guys doing it all. We had been struggling scoring and been too much one dimensional in recent games. Parker has been one of our most consistent players on offense throughout the year. We need Gavin, Ryan and J.T, as well as others to contribute on offense. Eli (Riggs) and Ladd (Choate) are capable of making big shots. We got to get all of the players involved to play winning basketball.”

Clarksville led 17-14 after the first quarter and increased it to 31-25 by half. Heber Springs trailed 41-36 going into the fourth quarter.

Riggs made one of the game’s biggest shots when he sank a layup  for a 51-46 lead with 11 seconds left. Payne drew a foul on a 3-point attempt and made the free throws with five seconds to go. On the inbound pass after a timeout, Crocker threw deep to Brown, who caught the pass and drew an intentional foul with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Vaughn hit a 3-pointer from the deep corner at the buzzer.

“It sets up a big game at Pottsville,” Riley said. “We had two more big plays at the end of this game, especially the long pass. We showed already this season that we are capable of beating any team in the league. That makes the other teams feel a little nervous about playing Heber Springs.”

Clarksville          17  14  10  8  – 49
Heber Springs   14  11  11  18 – 54
CLARKSVILLE SCORING (49):  Braxton Payne 17, Tobin Bush 15, Owen Ashlock 11, Landon Leeds 4, Cody Qualls 2.
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (54): Gavin Vaughn 17, Parker Brown 16, Ryan Crocker 14, J.T, Spears 5, Eli Riggs 2.

Panthers fall to Dardanelle, host Clarksville Saturday

IMG_0073_(2)
Heber Springs’ Parker Brown goes up for a dunk attempt in the first half against Dardanelle Tuesday night at the Panther Den. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs coach Jordan Riley issued a challenge to the Panthers minutes following Tuesday’s 48-25 loss to Dardanelle at the Panther Den.

Despite the loss, the Panthers (3-7 in Conference 4-4A, 12-11 overall), trail fifth-place Pottsville (3-6 in Conference 4-4A, 9-12 overall) by one-half game. Heber Springs has two games remaining during the regular season, while the Apaches have three games left.

Heber Springs will host Clarksville (5-5 in Conference 4-4A, 10-11 overall) at 2 p.m. Saturday and play at Pottsville on Tuesday. Pottsville will play at Morrilton on Friday, with home games against Panthers on Feb. 8 and Ozark on Feb. 11.

The fifth-place team will avoid playing a play-in game at the conference tournament.

“We have a lot of basketball left to play,” Riley said. “It’s up to the players how this team will be defined after the season ends. The team already exceeded most expectations (of fans). They either will fizzle out or work hard and improve on offense and defense. Hopefully, we will fight, battle and finish the season strong.”

Braden Tanner scored a game-high 21 points for Dardanelle (7-3 in Conference 4-4A, 14-7 overall). Robert Millard contributed 11 points. Gavin Vaughn led Heber Springs with seven points.

“Dardanelle did a good job of keeping us on the from the middle of the court,” Riley said. “We were able to keep the ball in the middle of the floor and created more room for passes in the first game (a 45-42 loss at Dardanelle). We didn’t do a very good job of protecting the ball in (Tuesday’s) the game and shot poorly for the second straight game.”

Parker Brown opened the game by converting a short jumper to give Heber Springs its only the lead during the game. Tanner made a 3-pointer and Chase Jordan’s jumper and started a 17-4 run by the Sand Lizards. Brown scored again and Eli Riggs had a field goal, but Dardanelle maintained control and built a 17-6 lead going into the second quarter.

The Sand Lizards pulled away with a 10-3 second quarter scoring run and for a 27-9 halftime lead. Dardanelle took a 38-16 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Riley planned extra work on offense for Friday’s game against Clarksville. The Panthers scored 46 points in two games this week.

“You can’t win games when scoring in the 20s,” he said. “We were taking good shots, but didn’t make many. We will work on improving what we had been doing on offense.

Riley said the plan was to put pressure on Dardanelle’s two shooters (Tanner and Millard, who combined for six 3-pointers 32 of the 48 points.
“We let those two guys loose on the perimeter and make multiple 3’s,” Riley said. “We dug a deep hole for ourselves. We played better defense during the second half, but it’s tough when you are down by 18 points.”

Riley expects his team to accept his challenge, starting with Clarksville.

“Clarksville is playing well,” he said. “We will be ready to defend the Den and win. We need to win the next two games for a better tournament seed. I hope that is how the team will be defined during the remainder of the season, a team which fought until the end.”

Dardanelle         17 10 11 10 -48
Heber Springs    6   3   7  9 -25
DARDANELLE SCORING (48): Braden Tanner 21, Robert Millard 11, Chase Jordan 7, Chris Wrinkle 6, Noah Weisenbach 2, Tyler Spencer 1.
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (25): Gavin Vaughn 7, Hud Haggard 6, Parker Brown 4, Ladd Choate 3, Austin Winchester 3, Eli Riggs 2.

Fast start, slow finish costs Panthers in 4-4A action

IMG_9422
Heber Springs coach Jordan Riley reacts to call in the second half in 4-4A play against Pottsville at the Panther Den. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

The Heber Springs Panthers started fast, but scored only 10 points during the final three quarters and fell to Pottsville in a Conference 4-4A basketball game at the Panther Den on Monday.

Heber Springs (3-6 in Conference 4-4A, 12-10 overall) led 11-8 after the first quarter. Pottsville built an 8-5 lead before the Panthers responded with six unanswered points, all scored by Parker Brown, for an 11-8 lead going into the second quarter.

Pottsville (3-6 in Conference 4-4A, 9-12 overall) scored the next five points to seize control and finished with a 9-3 scoring run for the 22-14 halftime lead. The Apaches put the game away by outscoring Heber Springs 17-4 and took a 39-18 advantage into the fourth quarter.

The win moved the Apaches into a tie for fifth place with Heber Springs.
Landon Stanley, who made six 3-pointers, led Pottsville with 24 points. Parker Brown scored 13 points for the Panthers.

“The big difference was how Pottsville shot the basketball well, and we didn’t shoot well,” Heber Springs coach Jordan Riley said. “It’s difficult to beat a team that shoots that well. We settled for stuff on offense too much and that led to poor shooting. Pottsville showed patience and executed on offense. It was a rough night on both ends of the court.”

Ryan Crocker, who was held to two points, played until late in the fourth quarter with a badly sprained ankle. Crocker suffered the injury during Friday’s shoot-around. He led the defense with two blocked shots.

“I’m proud of Ryan for playing even though he was not 100 percent,” Riley said. “We are a better team when he is on the floor. Hopefully, he will get healthy, but it will be difficult with three games this week. We will do the best we can.”

The Apaches had eight 3-pointers, which didn’t catch Riley by surprise.

“Pottsville had been shooting well from three, especially Stanley,” he said. “At times, we contested shots, but not tight enough. We never made the adjustments to keep him (Stanley) from making those shots.”

Heber Springs will look to rebound at home against Dardanelle (6-3 in Conference 4-4A, 13-7 overall) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“It will be a tough game against Dardanelle, which is one of the top teams in the league,” Riley said. “We just have to battle through adversity and protect the homecourt. We need to win at least two more games to keep out of the play-in game for the conference tournament. Wherever we land, we will be ready to battle and give it our best shot.”

The Panthers’ final home game will be against Clarksville on Friday, with the regular season finale at Pottsville on Feb. 8.

Pottsville             8  14  17  5-44
Heber Springs  11    3    4  3 -21POTTSVILLE SCORING (44): Landon Stanley 24, Jackson Furrh 7, Trevor Lyles 5, Nico Ybarra 4, Landon Martin 2, Carson Palmer 2.
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (21): Parker Brown 13, Ladd Choate 3, Eli Riggs 3, Ryan Crocker 2.

Heber Springs tops Ozark for home conference win

IMG_7210_(2)
Heber Springs’ Ryan Crocker looks to get past an Ozark defender in 4-4A senior boys play Friday night at the Panther Den. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

The Heber Springs Panthers made the plays during the final two minutes and completed the season sweep of the Ozark Hillbillies 39-36 in a 4-4A conference basketball game at the Panther Den Friday.

Gavin Vaughn, who scored a game-high 17 points, made a 3-pointer with 3:12 left to give the Panthers a 37-36 lead. Kayden McAnally’s 3-pointer had put Ozark ahead 36-34 with 4:11 remaining. Heber Springs sophomore Eli Riggs made 2-of-4 free throws during the final minute.

Landon Wright missed a 3-pointer for the Hillbillies, which would have sent the game into overtime, with two seconds to play. The win was the first against a conference team at home since defeating Subiaco Academy during the 2017-18 season.

Earlier this season, the Panthers won 38-36 in overtime at Ozark.

“The conference has been super competitive every game,” Heber Springs coach Jordan Riley said. “Ozark beat Subiaco (Academy), which then turned around and beat Dardanelle. Pottsville got its first conference win the other night. Every game matters at this point. We are in the mix for one of the two automatic berths to the regional tournament.”

Heber Springs (3-3 in conference, 12-7 overall) currently is in fourth place, one half game behind Subiaco Academy (4-3 in conference, 10-6 overall) and one game ahead of Clarksville (3-4 in conference, 8-10 overall). Dardanelle (5-1 in conference, 12-5 overall) and Morrilton (5-1 in conference, 12-6 overall) are tied for the conference lead.

The top four teams during the regular season will earn first-round byes for the conference tournament. The regular-season champion and runner-up automatically will qualify for the regional tournament.

The 12 wins is the most by the program in a single season since it won that many games during the 2015-16 season.

“We missed two free throws late, but Eli came through by making two and gave us the 3-point lead,” Riley said. “We did a good job of contesting shots. We came up with enough stops at the end of the game to win.”

Vaughan made five of Heber Springs’ seven 3-pointers. Ozark had six 3-pointers, led by McAnally and Tanner Bailie. The Hillbillies converted 9-of-12 attempts at the free-throw line, while the Panthers made 4-of-7.

“Gavin made big shots,” Riley said. “Ladd (Choate) hit two big 3-pointers. Parker (Brown) battled around the rim. It was a group effort. We are at our best when we are balanced on offense.”

Heber Springs broke a 5-5 tie by going on an 7-3 scoring run and led 12-8 going into the second quarter. The lead changed six times for the remainder of the first half. Vaughn’s jumper tied the game at 22-22 going into the dressing room at halftime.

The Panthers pulled ahead 30-26 midway through the third quarter. Masingale and Kyle Archer each made two free throws as the game was tied at 30-30 going into the fourth quarter.

Riley said the win will give the team momentum for the start of the second half of the conference season.

“We need to keep working hard and getting better,” Riley said. “Ozark’s slow pace didn’t surprise us. They have been trying to play a different way in recent games to take advantage of their strength. They were playing to get a good shot. It was a battle every possession. We made enough shots to win.”

Riley said it was another example of the team continuing its improvement.

“This group of players have dealt with a lot of adversity for the past two years,” he said. “We are playing better and then the Covid-19 altered our schedule. These players are resilient.”

Heber Springs will play two conference road games this week. The Panthers will travel to Morrilton on Tuesday and then play at Subiaco Academy on Friday.

Ozark                     8 14 8 6 – 36
Heber Springs  12 10 8 9 – 39
OZARK SCORING (36): Eli Masingale 13, Kayden McAnally 6, Tanner Bailie 6, Kyle Archer 5, Braeson Peters 3, Landon Wright 3.
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (39): Gavin Vaughn 17, Parker Brown 8, Ladd Choate 6, Ryan Crocker 4, Eli Riggs 4.

Morrilton wears down Heber Springs

IMG_5535_(2)
Heber Springs’ Parker Brown goes up for a first-half lay-up against Morrilton Tuesday night at the Panther Den. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Morrilton’s dominance on the offensive boards wore down the Heber Springs Panthers in Tuesday’s Conference 4-4A basketball game at the Panther Den.

The Devil Dogs (1-1 in Conference 4-4A, 8-6 overall) seized control with a 10-3 scoring run during the second quarter and defeated the Panthers 60-38 and stopped a four-game losing streak.

Heber Springs (1-2 in Conference 4-4A, 10-6 overall) started its latest win streak with a win at Des Arc before sweeping three games and claiming the Mount Vernon-Enola Holiday Tournament championship.

“We played hard for most of the game and did a good job of taking away some of the things they wanted to do with Pinion,” said Heber Springs coach Jordan Riley, referring to Razorback signee Joseph Pinion said. “The name of the game was offensive rebounds. We gave up too many. No. 11 (Ja Corey Mosley) crashed the offensive boards hard and probably had his career high scoring game. We must do a better job rebounding and play more physical.”

Mosley, who made 12-of-15 shots, scored a game high 26 points for Morrilton, mostly off offensive rebounds. Pinion had 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Julian Brockman grabbed eight rebounds.

Gavin Vaughn, who had three 3-pointers, led the Panthers with 13 points. Ryan Crocker had 12 points. One of Vaughn’s 3-pointers was the only team’s points during the second quarter.

“We need to get Ryan going earlier in the game,” Riley said. “We need players to play more aggressive on offense. It looked like we were intimidated at times. We must learn it doesn’t matter the name on the back of the jersey or where he might be going to college.”

After a couple of lead changes during the opening minutes, Ladd Choate hit a 3-pointer and started a 7-0 scoring run. Crocker and Parker Brown each made field goals as the Panthers pulled ahead, 9-4.

Morrilton responded with an 8-0 run to regain the lead. Roderick Fordren began the charge with a field goal, followed by Dylan Fondren’s free throw. Mosley then scored off an offensive rebound to tie the game at 9-9. The Devil Dogs took the lead on Brockman’s 3-pointer. Morrilton increased lead to five points on Markel Swinton’s field goal.

Heber Springs stayed close and pulled to within 18-16 by the end of the first quarter on Vaughn’s 3-pointer.

The Panthers took the lead for the final time when Vaughn connected from behind the arc early in the second quarter. The Devil Dogs controlled the remainder of the first half by scoring 10 unanswered points for a 28-19 halftime lead.

Morrilton, who led by as much as 16 points, outscored Heber Springs 16-11 during the third quarter and built a 44-30 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Panthers will play their next two games on the road, beginning with Dardanelle on Friday. Heber Springs will travel to Clarksville on Tuesday.

“Dardanelle is going to be a very tough game,” Riley said. “They beat Morrilton (in overtime at Dardanelle). We need to bring our ‘A’ game. We will do our best to play at our pace and move forward.”

Heber Springs’ next home game will be against Pottsville on Jan. 14.

Morrilton           18 10 16 16-60
Heber Springs  16   3  11  8 -38

MORRILTON SCORING (60):  Ja Corey Mosley 26, Joseph Pinion 15, Julian Brockman 8, Markel Swinton 8, Roderick Fordren 2, Dylan Fondren 1.

HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (38): Gavin Vaughn 13, Ryan Crocker 12, Parker Brown 8, Ladd Choate 3, Eli Riggs 2.