SPORTS >> Cabot survives early scare
Leader sports editor
The Cabot Lady Panthers fought off a strong fourth-quarter attack Tuesday night to defeat Conway 62-57 in the opening game of the class AAAAA state tournament at UALR’s Stephens Center.
The Lady Panthers led by 13 at halftime and 48-38 at the end of the third quarter, but Conway came storming back to make it an exciting game at the end. The Lady Wampus Cats scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, and took the lead at 54-53 with 1:32 remaining before the Lady Panthers regained control.
Cabot coach Carla Crowder would have liked for the win to have been easier, but was happy to get into the next round.
“They’ve got a good team and played real hard,” Crowder said. “We didn’t play well in spots, but we made some plays at the end. Hopefully this won’t happen to us again.”
Wyvonne Hawkins’ driving layup and subsequent free throw, her first points of the game, put Conway up for the first time in the game at the 1:32 mark.
Lauren Daniels answered with a minute remaining off an assist by Cabot senior Kim Sitzmann.
Conway’s Caroline Powell walked on the next possession, and Maddie Helms hit two free throws for Cabot to make it 57-54.
Powell missed a three at the other end.
Teammate Shabhree Maxfield got the rebound, but missed a short jumper amid heavy traffic. Sitzmann got that rebound and was fouled. She hit both free throws with 25 seconds left, but Conway still wasn’t finished rallying.
Hawkins hit a three pointer with 17 seconds remaining. It was the first and only three of the game for Conway in 10 attempts.
Conway almost forced a turnover after timeout, but junior Jamie Sterrenberg saved the ball from going out of bounds and hit Sitzmann in the middle of the court. Sitzmann was fouled and hit both free throws with 11 seconds to go to seal the victory.
Maddie Helms added one more free throw with two seconds remaining to set the final margin.
Conway knocked Cabot out of the tournament last year, and that fact was not forgotten. If it was, Sitzmann made sure to bring it back to her teammates attention.
“I had to bring that up,” Sitzmann said. “We were ready to take care of them.”
The Lady Panthers started fast, running out to an 8-2 lead in the first three minutes, including a 6-0 run after a 2-2 start. Conway battled back and tied the game at eight apiece with 3:45 left in the first, but it was all Cabot from there.
Junior Lindsey Watts check-ed into the game and immediately hit back-to-back three pointers to put the Lady Panthers up 18-10.
After a couple of Conway free throws, Sitzmann closed the quarter with a three at the buzzer to make it 21-12 at the end of one.
Cabot didn’t score for over two minutes of the second quarter while committing three straight turnovers, but little damage was done. Conway only scored four points before Sitzmann added two free throws to make it 23-16 with 5:45 left in the second quarter. Lauren Daniels gave the Lady Panthers their first field goal of the quarter with 5:10 left.
Conway’s Chanel Irvin got a bucket and foul to make it 25-19, but after a Jamie Sterrenberg bucket, Sitzmann got a steal and layup to put the Lady Panthers up by 10 for the first time in the game.
Irvin kept getting offensive rebounds and free throws, but Helms made it an 11-point game with 1:38 left in the half with a driving layup and a free throw.
Cabot developed the dropsies again at the start of the second half, but damage was minimal until the fourth quarter as stone-cold shooting prevented the Lady ’Cats from getting any closer than seven points.
Sophomore Leah Watts drilled a three pointer from about 23 feet to put Cabot back up by double digits with 5:26 left in the third.
Sitzmann finished with 24 points to lead all scorers. Helms added 13 for the Lady Panthers.
Irvin led Conway with 15 points while Chelsea Sublett and Maxfield added 14 each.
Conway dominated the boards, finishing with a 37-18 rebounding advantage.
The win puts Cabot into a 1 p.m. matchup Friday against tonight’s Rogers-Lake Hamilton winner.