It may have reminded the Highland fans of the 2007 regional tournament when a talented Lady Rebel team, seeded number one, travelled to Pocahontas to go up against four-seed Bald Knob and left with a stunning 38-36 first-round loss.
Highland hadn't lost a game since Dec. 30 against Nettleton in the NEA finals, giving the Lady Rebs 18 straight wins.
Facing the fourth-seeded Heber Springs Lady Panthers for the first time in their new gymnasium, for the right to move on to the state tournament, the number-one seeded Lady Rebs' season came to end with a 60-49 loss at Heber Springs on Feb. 25.
"Their kids played so hard. Defensively they pressured us pretty hard," said Lady Rebel Head Coach Harlan Davis. "And not that it was great pressure, but it got us out of things we need to do and made us rush things on offense. They set the tone of the game. They played a little harder than we did and we just never could recover from it."
The tone was set with the opening tip.
Highland clearly should have grabbed the tipped ball, but it was fumbled away, giving Lady Panther Hali Tury a chance to snag it and put in for the easy layup.
Alex Isaacs answered quickly to tie the game and a Kristina Langston free throw gave the Lady Rebels the lead.
Heber senior Jena Kelley hit the first of her five 3-pointers to start the Lady Cats on the road to a 10-2 run.
Highland responded with its own 8-0 run, but a Kelley trey at the buzzer gave Heber Springs the 15-13 first quarter lead.
Heber knocked down four free throws to start the second quarter and Highland didn't score until under four minutes left in the half.
"I thought the perimeter shots we took were rushed, but it's so much easier to play the game from ahead than it is from behind," explained Davis. "I think as the game progressed we felt a little more pressure and a little more pressure on our shots. We couldn't get our shots to go down. It's one of those things that kind of got away from us."
After Kristen Ellis put in a free throw to cut the lead to 25-18 with 12 seconds left, Rhylei Gachot found the layup at the buzzer to send Heber into the locker room with the momentum.
The Lady Panther shooters went cold in the third quarter, not scoring until 3:05, but Highland couldn't take advantage, only going 4-0 to the point.
"I don't know the reason, but we just started rushing things. We rushed some passes. We rushed some catches," said Davis. "Their defense didn't prevent us from getting the ball back so we could run our offense, but it made us rush to get into our offense."
Heber finished the third period on a 12-4 run and a 39-26 lead.
Seeing their season coming to end, Highland's offense came alive in the fourth with a 23-point effort.
Kaitlin Scribner hit the Lady Rebs only 3 for the game, and Isaacs scored 12 of her team-leading 26 points before fouling out.
"Their post kind of hurt us and we were focused on (Alison Price). That's where our guards were at, so defensively it was good and it was bad," said Lady Panther Head Coach Jamey Riddle. "I felt like we contained their guards and let their post have what they could get."
Price had six points for Highland (23-6, 13-1 4A-3) while Ellis had five. Ellis, playing on a bum knee, also snagged four steals in limited action.
Kelley led the Lady Panthers with 29 points.
"More than anything you've got to give Heber a lot of credit. They showed up ready to play," said Davis.