Panthers begin offseason work

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Heber Springs junior defensive lineman Corbin Jones tangles with a Harding Academy lineman in nonconference action last season. The Wildcats will be a conference beginning this season. PHILIP SEATON FILE PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

An injury will force reshuffling of the backfield for the Heber Springs Panthers football team.

Sophomore Liam Buffalo, who was projected to become the starting quarterback at the conclusion of spring practice, recently suffered a knee injury while playing baseball and underwent surgery Friday. Buffalo, who participated for the junior high school football, basketball and track and field, plus he was a starter on the high school baseball team last year. is expected to miss the 2022 football season.

Buffalo led the Panther Cubs to a 13-5 record during the past two football seasons. He completed 82-of147 passes for 1,160 yards and 15 touchdowns with only one interception last season. He rushed 101 times for 931 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.

“We are disappointed in losing Liam,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said when asked about the team’s reaction. “Liam was looking forward to moving up to high school. He has a bright a future ahead and good things are coming.”

Junior Xander Lindley, last year’s starter before breaking his collarbone against Bald Knob, will assume the quarterback duties fulltime. Lindley had moved to wide receiver during spring practice.

Senior Easton Cusick, a two-year starter at receiver, will be Lindley’s backup. Cusick replaced Lindley when he was injured during the second series of the Bald Knob game.

In 2021, Lindley completed 35-of-62 passes for 515 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed 58 times for 180 yards and scored two touchdowns. Cusick connected on 51-of-104 passes for 389 yards and two touchdowns.

“If there is a good part to this, we still have two guys coming back with experience,” Wood said. “I talked with Xander and told him that it was going back on his shoulders again.”

Lindley had his best game of last season against Central Arkansas Christian when he completed 11-of-13 passes for 113 yards and ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

“Xander was getting to his peak before the injury,” Wood said. “He had a great game against CAC. He and Parker Brown were becoming a dual threat in the backfield. This situation is an opportunity for Xander to rise up and do well.”

Wood said Lindley may play occasionally at receiver and in the defensive secondary.

Meanwhile, building an efficient offensive and defensive lines also will be focal points going into the new season. The Panthers return one experienced offensive lineman (Corbin Jones), but Wood liked the progress going into summer workouts.

“Corbin started last year as a sophomore and will be our left tackle,” Wood said. We have two players who were on last year’s junior high school team — Axley Davis (6-2, 270 pounds) and Gauge Owens (5-9, 200 pounds), who are battling for starting roles.”

Tripp Young (6-1, 260 pounds), who will be a senior, was on the team last year, and Wood expects Young to make an impact on the offensive and defensive lines.

“The coaching staff is excited about him (Young) coming back,” Wood said. “We expect good things from him as one of our guards. He also will be a strong player on the defensive line. We don’t have much depth on the offensive and defensive lines. Our main focus during the spring was getting the offensive and defensive lines ready.”

On a brighter side, most of last year’s skilled position players return.

“I’ve been pleased with the performance of the returning players,” Wood said. “They jumped right in there because they already knew what to do. We are ahead of last year on both sides of the ball. The returning players have positive attitudes and provided leadership, both from seniors and some of our younger players.”

Brown led the Panthers in rushing (113-834 yards, 11 touchdowns) and receiving (17-314 yards, five TDs). He also became the first player in school history with a 200-yard rushing and receiving games during the same season. Brown also rushed for 100 yards or more in four games. Brown excelled in the return game by returning 10 kickoffs for 195 yards and four punts for 65 yards.

Junior Dalton Yancey emerged as one of the team’s primary targets during the second half of last season by catching 15 passes for 122 yards.

“We have players with experience at receiver,” Wood said.

Warden rushed 48 times for 247 yards and scored two touchdowns for the junior high team last season. He caught 30 passes for 655 yards and seven touchdowns.

“Weston played running back for the junior high team last season, but he has worked at receiver,” Wood said. “Weston has speed and good hands.”

Gideon Tate, who made 17-of-18 points after touchdowns last season, returns at placekicker and ranks among the best in the state.

“I like the onside kickoff, but challenged Tate if he can kick it into the end zone consistently, we will do that more,” Wood said. “He is a good kicker.”

Linebacker Kenan Sneed will lead the defensive charge for the third straight season. Sneed led the Panthers with 115 tackles, including 17 for losses last season — it was the second straight season for Sneed to record more than 100 tackles. He had two quarterback sacks. Sneed also turned in one of the top plays of the season, a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown to switch the momentum in the win at Bald Knob.

Chris Edwards will move from cornerback to outside linebacker. Edwards ranked second among tacklers with a total of 66 stops, including seven for losses. He also had a 71-yard interception return for a touchdown against Dover.

“It’s good to have your leading tackler back coming back,” Wood said. “We will try and put guys around him, like Jacob McMullin, to build a stronger defense. Jacob is coming up from the junior high team and will be a solid inside linebacker. He will be in a good situation playing next to Kenan.”

Edwards and Zack Parker are the projected starters at outside linebackers. Parker started at safety for most of last season.

“Chris Roberts played safety and outside linebacker last year,” Wood said. “(Sophomore) Kaden Terrell has speed and plays aggressively. Warden played at cornerback in junior high. We are trying to put the right pieces in the right places.”

Wood said candidates are available to step in and play at safety.

“Colton Turley didn’t play last year, but he came back and can become a solid safety,” Wood said. “We have a lot of guys to look at.”

SPRING ROUND-UP: Panthers open soccer season with wins; Brown, Hooten win state titles

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Heber Springs’ Chloe Flores looks to get past a Riverview in nonconference soccer action at Panther Stadium Monday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

HEBER SPRINGS – The spring sports season opened up on Monday for four Heber Springs Panther teams with mixed results.

The boys and girls soccer teams won home matches over Riverview at Panther Stadium, while the baseball and softball teams opened with losses.

For the track teams, the senior boys and girls competed at the Class 4A state indoor track meet on Saturday in Fayetteville.

GIRLS SOCCER

Cristina Garcia scored three times and Sam Gilley twice as Heber Springs (1-0) led 5-0 until late in the contest before the Riverview (0-1) added late goal on the Lady Panther reserves.

Heber Springs returns to action on Thursday at Panther Stadium against Conway St. Joseph (0-0).

BOYS SOCCER

Senior Gus Hannah and freshman Braden Biggs each scored as Heber Springs (1-0) opened with a 2-1 win over Riverview (0-1).

Chandler Webber picked up the assist on each of the goals, while senior goalkeeper Jackson West had 10 saves in the night.

Heber Springs will return to action on Thursday at home against Conway St. Joseph (0-0).

BASEBALL

Heber Springs opened the coach Ryan Bridges era with a trip to Bridges’ alma mater, Sheridan, for a nonconference tournament.

The 4A Panthers led until the late innings but were not able to pull out the win against the 5A Yellowjackets falling 13-4.

Heber Springs (0-1) will tangle with another 5A school today in the same tournament when they face Searcy at Benton with first pitch set for 5:45 p.m.

SOFTBALL

Due to wet field conditions, Heber Springs’ season-opener was moved from Maumelle. Despite the home field advantage, the Lady Panthers dropped a 7-2 decision.

Heber Springs will look to bounce back today as they host Nemo Vista at 4:30 p.m.

TRACK

At the Class 4A state indoor meet on Saturday on the campus of the University of Arkansas, sophomore Parker Brown and junior Jaylea Hooten each won individual state titles by winning the high jump.

The boys mile relay team also claim a first-place finish.

HEBER SPRINGS RESULTS:

SENIOR BOYS 
60: 4. Parker Brown 7.38, 14. Bent McClain 7.90
200: 4. Parker Brown 23.83, 10. Bent McClain 25.40
400: 14. Weston Warden 1:02.34, 16. Hunter Warren 1:07.21
800: 8. Nathan Poff 2:21.43, 11. Wade Harris 2:27.47
1600: 7. Mason Harris 5:08.62, 10. Wade Harris 5:18.20
3200: 6. Nathan Poff 11:33.68, 8. Reagan Buell 12:22.27
60 HURDLES: 8. J.P. Bonkoski 12.36, 9. Aaron Combs 14.46
MILE RELAY: 1. Heber Springs 3:55.88
TWO-MILE RELAY: 4. Heber Springs 9:55.49
HIGH JUMP: 1. Parker Brown 6-0, 4. Liam Buffalo 5-6
LONG JUMP: 2. Parker Brown 19-7.5, 3. Liam Buffalo 19-6.75
TRIPLE JUMP: 2. Parker Brown 40-0.25
POLE VAULT: 5. Justin Ogle 10-6
SHOT: 9. Aaron Combs 22-7, 10. Kevin Leal 19-5.

SENIOR GIRLS
60: 12. Natalie Buffalo 8.88, 15. Ava Noble 9.68
200: 7. Jaylea Hooten 28.57, 11. Joanna Wilson 29.65
400: 7. Joanna Wilson 1:06.81, 10. Maygan Jarvis 1:08.5
800: 8. Riley Bailey 2:52.79, 11. Vallie Cantrell 3:00.9
1600: 7. Joy Bray 6:18.98, 9. Riley Bailey 6:33.28
3200: 7. Riley Bailey 14:37.63, 10. Vallie Cantrell 15:12.32
60 HURDLES: 2. Rylee Birmingham 10.84, 4. Jaylea Hooten 10.95
MILE RELAY: 5. Heber Springs 4:55.04
HIGH JUMP: 1. Jaylea Hooten 4-10, 6. Vallie Cantrell 4-4
LONG JUMP: 2. Jaylea Hooten 15-11.75, 10. Natalie Buffalo 14-2.35
TRIPLE JUMP: 8. Taylor Parker 27-11.25
POLE VAULT: 2. Maygan Jarvis 10-0, 5. Ava Noble 7-0
SHOT: 8. Miah Tharp 21-11.75, 10. Lily Hendrix 19-3

 

 

UPCOMING HEBER SPRINGS SPRING SPORTS SCHEDULE
March 1 through March 10
(Times and dates subject to change; italics indicts home games, matches)
Tuesday, March 1st
Softball vs. Nemo Vista (4:30 p.m.)
Baseball vs. Searcy at Benton (tournament) (5:45 p.m.)
Thursday, March 3rd
Baseball vs. Clinton (4:30 p.m.)
Softball vs. Clinton (4:30 p.m.)
Senior Girls Soccer vs. Conway St. Joseph (5 p.m.)
Senior Boys Soccer vs. Conway St. Joseph (7 p.m.)
Friday, March 4th
Baseball vs. Little Rock Catholic (3:30 p.m.)
Softball vs. Carlisle (4:30 p.m.)
Saturday, March 5th
Softball at Southside Batesville (4:30 p.m.)
Monday, March 7th
7th-Grade Track at Searcy (3:30 p.m.)
Softball at Searcy (4:30 p.m.)
Senior Girls Soccer at Dardanelle (5 p.m.)
Baseball at Beebe (5 p.m.)
Senior Boys Soccer at Dardanelle (7 p.m.)
Tuesday, March 8th
Junior High Track at Searcy (3:30 p.m.)
Softball at White County Central (4:30 p.m.)
Thursday, March 10th
Senior High Track at Searcy (3:30 p.m.)
Baseball vs. Newport (4:30 p.m.)
Softball at Bigelow (4:30 p.m.)
Senior Girls Soccer vs. Danville (5 p.m.)
Senior Boys Soccer vs. Danville (7 p.m.)

Heber Springs’ season ends with loss in district tournament

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

Heber Springs wins tournament title, 10th game

IMG_4583_(2)
The Heber Springs senior boys basketball team after its win over Concord to claim the Mount Vernon-Enola holiday tournament. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

MOUNT VERNON – The Heber Springs Panthers finished 2021 strong and built momentum going into 2022.

Heber Springs held the Concord Pirates to four points during the third quarter and pulled away for a 54-36 win and won the Mount Vernon-Enola Holiday Basketball Tournament championship Thursday.

The Panthers (10-5 overall, 1-1 in Conference 4-4A) trailed 9-8 after the first quarter before they rallied for a 19-17 halftime lead and increased it to 34-21 by the end of the third quarter.

Heber Springs reached the 10-win plateau for the first time since the 2015-16 season and won a tournament championship for the first time in more than a decade.

Concord fell to 12-7 on the season.

“They are starting to believe in themselves,” Panther coach Jordan Riley said. “It’s not anything special I’m doing. The players are the reason for the success. They just needed someone who believed in them. I’m proud of their effort, and everything is coming together.”

Riley said getting the 10th win was important.

“It was a milestone that the team wanted to achieve,” he said. “We just need to keep moving forward.”

Ryan Crocker, who finished with 14 points, led the third-quarter charge by scoring six of Heber Springs’ 15 points. Parker Brown led the Panthers with 15 points.

“We did a better job of taking away the things that Concord was doing against our defense during the first half,” said Riley when asked about the second half. “Ryan hit some big shots and gave us separation. Concord has a good team and did a good job attacking our zone defense during the first half. In the second half, we came away with enough rebounds and didn’t give them many second chances.”

The lead changed back and forth during the first quarter. Heber Springs led 8-4 until Concord finished by scoring five unanswered points. Gage Morgan scored on an inside move, and Eli Heigle hit a 3-pointer, giving the Pirates a 9-8 lead going into the second quarter.

The trend continued through the remainder of the first half. Crocker connected on a jumper late in the second quarter as Heber Springs led 19-17 at halftime.

The Panthers outscored the Pirates 35-19 during the second half.

“We didn’t make many shots during the second half,” Concord coach Keith Cornett, who led Heber Springs to the state semifinals during the early 2000s. “Heber should be credited for playing a good 2-3 zone defense. We didn’t take advantage of getting the ball into the post and to players in the corners during the second half. They made shots in the second half, and we didn’t.”

Heber Springs built a 16-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Crocker and point guard Gavin Vaughn (who was selected the tournament’s MVP) went to the bench with four personal fouls. Concord pulled to within seven points before the Panthers finished with a flurry.

“I’m proud of the younger guys who took good care of the ball against Concord’s full-court press and kept the lead,” Riley said. “Once Ryan and Gavin went back into the game, we pulled away. It was a good way to wrap up our non-conference schedule.”

Cornett said the difference in the game came from how Heber Springs played defense during the second half.

“We played okay on defense, but struggle on offense throughout the game,” he said. “We showed fight in the fourth quarter when we reduced Heber’s lead.”

The Panthers will host Morrilton (7-6 overall, 0-1 in Conference 4-4A), led by Razorback signee Joseph Pinion, on Tuesday.

“Morrilton is going to be a tough game, just like the other conference games,” Riley said. “If we can keep playing hard, it will give us a chance for a win every night. Pinion is the best player in the conference.”

Riley said Tuesday’s game will be a challenge for his team.

“We are starting to look like a good basketball team,” he said. “We will do our best to put the guys in the right positions for a chance to win the game.”

Concord             9  8   4 15 -36
Heber Springs 8 11 15 20 -54
CONCORD SCORING (36):  Eli Tate 12, Eli Heigle 12, Gage Morgan 9, Dylan Byrd 3.
HEBER SPRINGS SORING (54): Parker Brown 15, Ryan Crocker 14, Gavin Vaughn 9, Eli Riggs 5, J.T. Spears 4, Ladd Choate 3, Adam Winchester 3, Zach Thomas 1.

 

Panthers win nonconference contest with South Side

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Heber Springs’ Eli Riggs looks to get past defender, and former Panther, Conner Riddle in action Tuesday night at the Panther Den. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Senior Ryan Crocker and junior Gavin Vaughn led a 9-0 scoring run late in the fourth quarter as the Heber Springs Panthers stopped a two-game losing skid by rallying past South Side Bee Branch 41-38 in a nonconference basketball game at the Panther Den on Tuesday.

The Panthers (0-1 in 4-4A, 5-4 overall) returned above .500 on the season before Friday’s 4-4A conference game at Ozark (4-6, 0-0 in the 4-4A).

Vaughn led the Panthers with 12 points, including two 3-pointers. Eli Riggs and J.T. Spears each made two 3-pointers. Crocker also had a 3-pointer.

Former Panther Conner Riddle was the leading scorer for Southside (10-11) with 15 points, including two 3-pointers.

“Ryan did a good job, especially on defense,” Heber Springs coach Jordan Riley said. “He contested shots around the rim and rebounded well. Galvin has come a long way. He is beginning to figure things out, running the show and getting the ball to the right spots.”

The Hornets claimed the lead on a 7-2 scoring run late in the fourth quarter. Riddle’s 3-pointer increased the Hornets’ lead to 35-30 with 3:42 left in the fourth quarter. Heber Springs started its final scoring surge after Crocker’s block of Reese Beaudin’s baseline jumper.

The defensive play resulted into a 3-pointer by Vaughn from the right wing with 3:22 left in the game. After a defensive stop, Crocker connected from behind the arc, giving the Panthers a 36-35 lead with 1:42 to go.

Vaughn converted two free throws and Brown added 1-of-2 for a 39-35 lead with 23 seconds remaining. The lead increased to six points after Riggs and Vaughn each sank 1-of-2 free throws.

South Side’s Whitt Holland hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer.

“We had two close losses (Benton Harmony Grove and Subiaco Academy) and needed to win and did it,” Riley said. “We came up with a turnover (Crocker’s blocked shot) and made a three to take the lead. We held on for the remainder of the game.”

Riggs, Spears and Brown each made field goals for a 6-0 Heber Springs lead early in the first quarter. Beaudin and Riddle each scored baskets, but the Panthers scored the next five points for an 11-4 lead going into the second quarter.

Riggs connected on a 3-point jumper for the largest lead of the game, 16-8. The Hornets finished with a 7-0 run, capped by Holland’s 3-pointer as Heber Springs led 16-15 at halftime.

The lead changed four times during the third quarter. South Side led 24-20 before Brown led the Panther charge late in the quarter with two free throws, and Spears hit a 3-pointer for a 25-24 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“J.T. stepped up and made two big shots (3-pointers),” Riley said. “I’m proud of the way we adjusted during the second half. Offensively, we had too many turnovers during the first half that caused problems. We started to play the right way during the second half and got the job done.”

Riley said the win will give his team confidence going into Friday’s game at Ozark as well as the second half of the season.

“If we can reduce turnovers and make free throws better, we have a chance for a good season,” he said. “We were two possessions away from being 7-2. I feel good where the team is right now. This win will give us confidence. I hope it also gets the players believing in themselves more. That will help put us on the right track.”

Southside Bee Branch           4 11 9 14--38
Heber Springs                 11  5 9 16--41
SOUTH SIDE BEE BRANCH SCORING (38): Conner Riddle 15, Reese Beaudin 9, Whitt Holland 6, Nathan Emmart 6, Tyler Sullivan 2.
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (41): Gavin Vaughn 12, Eli Riggs 9, J.T. Spears 8, Parker Brown 7, Ryan Crocker 5.
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HEBER SPRINGS SENIOR BOYS
2021-2022
(Click on a game for previous details)
(Record: 5-4, 4-4A Conference: 0-1)
Nov. 18   Heber Springs 43, Bald Knob 37
Nov. 22   Guy-Perkins 54, Heber Springs 39
Nov. 23   Heber Springs 46, Shirley 34
Nov. 29   Conway St. Joseph 37, Heber Springs 30 +
Dec. 02   Heber Springs 43, Mayflower 41 +
Dec. 04   Heber Springs 36, South Side Bee Branch 25 +
Dec. 07   Benton Harmony Grove 31, Heber Springs 29
Dec. 10   Subiaco Academy 43, Heber Springs 40 *
Dec. 14   Heber Springs 41, South Side Bee Branch 38
Dec. 17   at Ozark (JG, JB, SG, SB), 4 p.m. *
Dec. 20   at Lonoke (JG, JB, SG, SB), 4 p.m. 
Dec. 21   at Des Arc (JG, JB, SG, SB), 4 p.m.
Dec. 28-30 at Mount Vernon-Enola Tournament (SG, SB)
Jan. 04   Morrilton (SGJV, SBJV, SG, SB), 6 p.m. *
Jan. 07   at Dardanelle (JG, JB. SG, SB), 4 p.m. *
Jan. 11   at Clarksville (SBJV, SG, SB), 5 p.m. *
Jan. 14   Pottsville (JG, JB, SG, SB), 4 p.m. *
Jan. 21   Ozark (JG, JB, SG, SB), 4 p.m. *
Jan. 25   at Morrilton (SGJB, SBJB, SG, SB), 6 p.m. *
Jan. 28   at Subiaco Academy (JB, SB), 5 p.m.
Feb. 01   Dardanelle (JG, JB, SG, SB), 4 p.m.
Feb. 03   Clarksville (SBJV, SG, SB), 5 p.m. *
Feb. 08   at Pottsville (SGJV, SG, SB), 6 p.m. *
Feb. 14   District Tournament at Subiaco Academy
( + - Denotes Conway St. Joseph Tournament)