Tuesday, January 18, 2011

SPORTS >> Heber Springs gets a hand, tops Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

Cara Neighbors out dueled Heber Springs’ Jena Kelley in a battle of standout senior guards, but Heber Springs’ supporting cast chipped in more points for a 50-43 victory over Lonoke to remain perfect in the 2-4A Conference on Friday.

Kelley led the visiting Lady Panthers with 25 points, going 5 of 7 on three-point attempts, while Neighbors answered with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 steals for the Lady Jackrabbits (11-8, 3-3).

Heber Springs (15-2, 5-0) led the entire way and held off a fourth-quarter Lonoke rally that cut a 33-24 lead at the end of the third quarter to 40-37 with less than three minutes left.

“Jena really stepped up tonight,” Heber Springs coach Jamey Riddle said.

“It’s not like she’s been off all year, but may not have been as consistent night in and night out. People know her, and they know she can shoot. They’re going to guard her, but if we get enough movement, we can find her wide open.”

Kelley gave the Lady Panthers wiggle room in the second quarter with back-to-back three-pointers that put them up 24-17 in the final two minutes.

Neighbors made up some of that by going 3 for 4 at the free-throw line before the half, but Kelley came up big again late in the third quarter with another three-pointer that gave Heber Springs a 33-21 lead, its biggest all night.

“I give her credit. She hit her free throws down the stretch,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said of Kelley.

“Didn’t do as good early in the game, but hit them down the stretch when she had pressure on her, and that’s what good players do.”

Lonoke post players Emily Howell and Artice Morris were able to contain Heber Springs inside players Chrissy Willen and Morgan Fires after Willen got loose for eight points in the first quarter. She finished with 10 while Fires hit only two field goals and went 4 for 4 at the free-throw line for eight points.

“We’re having to play a lot more zone this year than what we have in the past,” Morris said. “It’s not a bad thing; we actually played pretty well at times. We made a couple of mistakes on rotations underneath the basket that helped the big one get a couple there in the first quarter.”

The Lady Jackrabbits had their struggles on offense. Neighbors scored all but four of Lonoke’s field goals while Derrika Mays made two for her four points, Mary Davis made one and Patrice Smith made Lonoke’s only three-pointer and finished with four points.

With the Lady Panthers looking more and more like the dominant team in the 2-4A Conference, Morris said he felt his team gave a strong performance that could have led to an upset with a little help.

“That’s a moral victory, but moral victories don’t really go down in the record book,” Morris said.

“With the point performance Cara had tonight, you really want the little things to happen and us to be able to get that win.”

The Lady Panthers hold a one-game lead over Clinton in the 2-4A.

“This is a district-tournament type atmosphere here,” Riddle said. “That’s two good teams going at it right there. You can expect it to be kind of physical and everyone getting after it. For me personally, that’s what I want, because I feel like we haven’t been as physical this year.

“To see them play that hard and want it that bad, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”