SPORTS >>Heber spoils boys opener, Beebe ladies get first win
By JASON KING
Leader sports writer
Opening night for the Beebe Badgers and Lady Badgers resulted in a split with Heber Springs Tuesday night at the Badger Sports Arena. The Lady Badgers held off the Lady Panthers’ attempt at a late comeback to win 48-41, giving Heber its first loss of the season. The boys contest was not nearly as close, with the Panthers dominating from the opening minutes on to take a 60-35 win.
The girls game was a defensive struggle in the first half. Although the two teams looked fairly well matched, the Lady Badgers looked to have a slight advantage defensively with the quick hands of sophomores Ty O’Neil and Neshia Upchurch causing a lot of disruption with the press in the back court during Heber’s attempts to get the ball across.
After building up a slight lead before the half, the Lady Badgers continued to press in the final two quarters. They were not able to extend their lead any in the last 16 minutes, but did prevent a comeback by not allowing Lady Panthers’ three-point ace Christina Whitworth to get good looks at the basket going away. Lady Badgers coach Lara Jackson was happy to get the season underway with a big win.
“It’s a great way to start out the season,” Jackson said. “I thought the whole group played hard. They were keyed up a little bit in the first quarter and missed some shots and little opportunities around the basket, but defensively, we were aggressive, and had a lot of quickness.”
Even with the solid performance, Jackson picked up on a number of things she wants to improve on her squad while the season is still early.
“We need to work on our position defense,” Jackson said. “We were chasing screens quite a bit. Offensively, we just need to make better decisions. The first half, we were not penetrating like we should have; we just need to take the ball to the hole better.”
The scoreboard was stuck on 9-8 in favor of the Lady Badgers for most of the second quarter before Beebe finally got rolling offensively. A breakaway layup for O’Neil and inside jumpers from junior Ashley Watkins helped Beebe build up a small lead, with two free throws from Sara Flenor just before the half giving the Lady Badgers a 20-13 lead at the intermission.
The interval stayed the same through most of the third quarter, until two straight scores from Heber made it a four-point game at 28-24 with 1:50 left in the third. A Beebe timeout helped cool the Lady Panthers’ momentum, and allowed the Lady Badgers to regain their composure. Flenor added another free throw, and Chelsea Sanders scored a basket in the final moments of the frame for a 31-24 lead heading into the final period.
Whitworth kept the Lady Panthers in the game through most of the contest with critical three-point baskets in each of the first three quarters. Another three from Whitworth in the early stages of the fourth quarter erased an 11- point lead for Beebe down to eight, and another tre from teammate Amber Turrey moments later closed the advantage to 41-34. It would be as close as they would come, however, as the Lady Badgers managed the clock wisely in the final minutes, securing the win to give them a 1-0 record.
O’Neil led Beebe with 12 points, with Flenor adding 10. For Heber, Whitworth had 17 points.
The first four minutes of the boys game was close, but after that, it was all Heber, as the Panthers rolled on to a dominating 60-35 win. Beebe tried a number of different squads throughout the game, looking for a combination that could slow down the speedy Panthers.
The mercy-ruled fourth quarter saw solid action from the JV players, as the subs were able to erase some of the Badgers’ massive deficit in the final minutes. Charlie Spakes led the Badgers with six points; Alex Ward had 15 points for Heber.