By CRAIG HALL
PANAMA—Howe and Spiro were the big winners as the Panama Festival got started here Tuesday.
Howe’s boys and girls swept the host Panama teams while Spiro downed Acorn, Ark., in the earlier games.
Spiro’s girls edged Acorn, 49-45, while the Bulldogs jumped out to an 18-point lead in the first quarter and cruised to a 69-33 win.
Howe’s girls were also in complete control in a 56-35 victory before the Lions won a tight contest over Panama, 48-46, in the best game of the opening day.
Panama had a chance to win the last game, but a three-point shot as the buzzer sounded hit the front of the rim and bounced away, letting the Lions escape.
Howe’s Stephen Helmandollar gave the Lions the lead for good with 53 seconds left on a layup to go ahead, 47-46, after Panama’s Jason Lovell had scored four straight to give the Razorbacks the lead.
Nathan Hill upped Howe’s lead to two by hitting one of two free throws with 22 seconds left. Panama turned the ball over, but got another shot after the Lions missed a pair of free throws.
After a timeout with 3.9 seconds left, the Razorbacks got a good shot at the basket and the win. The shot hit the front of the rim and bounced away, giving Howe the win in a game that was close throughout.
Midway through the third quarter, Howe opened a five-point lead before Panama’s Anthony Milburn got hot. Milburn scored the Razorbacks’ next 10 points, including a three-point basket at the end of the third quarter to tie the score at 33.
His traditional three-point play gave Panama a 38-37 lead with 4:41. Howe’s Jared Brown hit three free throws sandwiched around a basket by the Razorbacks’ Buddy Rothermel to leave the teams knotted at 40.
Hill nailed a three to give Howe the lead, but once again Panama rallied back to take the lead, setting the stage for the wild final minute.
Helmandollar led Howe, now 9-4, with 22 points. Jared Brown added 12 before fouling out late and Nick Smallwood added 11. Milburn finished with 15 to lead Panama, 12 coming in the final half.
Howe’s girls got off to a fast start in their win, scoring the first eight points and stretching the lead to 19-6 at the end of the first quarter. The Lady Lions put the game away in the third quarter, outscoring Panama, 46-21, as Howe improved to 12-1.
Abigail McGarrah paced Howe with 13 points while Megan Brown had 12 and Brooke Vandever 11. Summer Stockton was the only Panama player to hit double figures with 12 points.
Spiro’s girls had a difficult game with a tough Acorn team, barely edging the Arkansas school over the final three quarters to get the victory.
Meocha McKesson had 20 to lead Spiro, now 4-2, while Philicea Mack added 12.
Spiro’s boys had no trouble snapping their two-game losing streak in their dominant win. The Bulldogs, which lost its last two games to Poteau and Roland, showed early they would have no problem eventually leading by 31 at the half.
Tyh Hawkins scored 18 points to lead the Bulldogs while Knifeis Carter and Jermaine Jimmerson each added 10.
After taking Wednesday off, the final day of the Festival is set for Thursday with Howe and Spiro playing at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., followed by Panama and Acorn playing the two late games.