Heber Springs Lady Panthers

Published October 27, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
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Conference: 2-4A

Coach: Jamie Riddle

Assistant coach: Jamison Ingram

2012-13 record: 27-5 overall, 13-1 in conference. Conference and district champion; Class 4A East Region runner-up; Class 4A state quarterfinalist, losing to Malvern, the eventual state champion, 58-45.

Returning starters: Skylar Johnson, 5-8 senior guard; Hannah Johnson, 5-8 senior guard; Janae Long, 5-8 senior post; and Makenzie Martin, 5-8 junior post.

Best inside players: Long and Martin, as well as Mary Lawrence, another 5-8 senior post.

Best outside players: The Johnson twins. Skylar scored 28 points and recorded 10 steals on Senior Night against Lonoke last year. The pair combined for 25 points against Clinton in the 2-4A Conference opener.

How will you match/exceed/fall short of your success from last year? There’s not a great deal to exceed following Heber Springs’ 2012-13 success. The Lady Panthers avenged their only conference loss (by 1 point to Newport) with a 54-46 win in the district championship game. They lost to Valley View, which went on to reach the state semifinals, in the regional championship. At the Class 4A State Tournament, they beat Pottsville in the opening round, 41-39, before coming up 13 points short of Malvern in the quarterfinals. The Lady Panthers obviously know how to win, but the new season presents some challenges. “It will be tough,” Riddle said. “Our conference as a whole has a lot of experience coming back.” The Lady Panthers, though, have enough maturity and experience to make them a viable candidate for another good run in 2013-14.

Team strengths: Experience is the ace in the hole for the Lady Panthers, who are aiming for their fourth consecutive conference championship.

Team weaknesses: Speed is the most obvious weakness for the Lady Panthers. They’ll be aiming to compensate for that this season.

Games to watch: All of them, the coach said. “Our conference is tough, and we are playing a lot of nonconference teams that either made it to regional or state last year.”

Toughest opponent: Riddle didn’t want to single out any particular teams.

College prospects: None at this time.

In a nutshell: “It should be a tough year,” Riddle said. “We hope we can keep working hard and getting better and see how the year plays out.”

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