SPORTS >> Lady Panthers beaten in semis
Leader sports writer
An amazing run came to an end on Saturday afternoon at the UALR Stephens Center when the Cabot Lady Panthers lost their AAAAA semifinal game to North Little Rock 50-39. Cabot led from the tip-off until 2:57 left in the first half, when the Lady Wildcats took their first lead of the game. Unfortunately for the Lady Panthers, it would be the only lead change in the entire contest.
Senior forward Kim Sitzmann averaged 24 points in Cabot’s first two tourney appearances against Conway and Rogers. The trend looked like it might continue when Sitzmann took the opening tip from Lauren Daniels all the way in for the easy lay up to give the Lady Panthers the first points of the game. Few would have guessed that the lay up would make for one-third of Sitzmann’s total points by game’s end. Foul trouble kept the senior off the court for much of the second quarter, and less effective in the third and fourth quarters.
“When Kim got in foul trouble in the first quarter, it got us off sync,” Lady Panthers coach Carla Crowder said.
“Whenever we put her back in, she was afraid of drawing the foul. They are very talented and athletic, and huge. We are disappointed, but there are a lot worse things that can happen to you in this world than losing a basketball game.”
The Lady Panthers only trailed by a point heading into the final quarter, but six failed three-point attempts in the fourth prevented Cabot from overtaking the Lady Wildcats. North Little Rock kept control in the final minutes with an MVP performance from junior Gabby Coleman. Coleman scored 10 of her total 13 points in the last frame, including 6 of 6 shots at the foul line.
Cabot’s only success from the outside in the game was a three pointer from Daniels in the third quarter, and a three from Lindsey Watts with 5:46 left. In all, the Lady Panthers were 2 of 13 from behind the arc, easily their lowest percentage of the season.
“We just couldn’t get it to fall,” Cabot junior Maddie Helms said after the game. “We had the shots, they just wouldn’t go in. We’ve worked very hard as a team this year. God has allowed us to get as far as we have.”
The Lady Panthers got out to the early lead with Sitzmann’s opening move followed by two baskets from Rachel Glover. Brittany Rochelle got North Little Rock on the board first with a jumper at the 4:52 mark to make the score 6-2 Cabot. Jamie Sterrenberg then drove in the paint for Cabot’s next two, followed by a home-run pass from Sitzmann to Helms, who was all alone under the goal to put the Lady Panthers up 10-3.
Things looked good for Cabot after one, as the Lady Panthers held a 15-8 lead, and went 5 for 11 from the floor, including two missed three-point attempts. North Little Rock missed their first eight shot attempts, but would come back much stronger in the second quarter.
NLR quickly cut it to 15-12 with two buckets from Sophia Piggie and Sherina Scott in the first 1:15 of the frame. Cabot’s shooting fell way off in the second, with three of its first four shots resulting in air balls. There were very few second-shot attempts for Cabot in the game with the Lady Wildcats’ tremendous size advantage inside. Rochelle and sophomore Maylaya Leggs measured up at 6’3” and 6’0” respectively, compared to Daniels, who at 5’11” was the tallest Lady Panther.
A jumper from Rochelle inside at the 2:57 mark gave North Little Rock the lead at 18-17. The Lady Panthers didn’t help their cause any, turning the ball over four straight times after relinquishing the lead.
The Lady Wildcats made their lead as much as six, but a driving basket for Helms before the buzzer cut it 23-19 at the half.
It was anyone’s game until 2:19 left in the game, when a Coleman jumper made it 42-38 NLR. Helms, Sterrenberg, Sitzmann and Watts all tried for three pointers in the final two minutes, but every attempt fell short, and the Lady Wildcats grabbed the easy rebounds. Coleman took the game in her hands at that point, sending Cabot home for the season after a 19-game winning streak. The last loss for Cabot was in mid-December in a non-conference game against Lonoke which took two overtimes to decide.
Helms led Cabot with nine points, with Sitzmann and Glover finishing with six. Coleman had 13 points to lead North Little Rock. Scott added 11 for the Lady Wildcats. The loss makes Cabot’s final record 26-4. North Little Rock will play Fort Smith Northside Saturday afternoon in the AAAAA finals.