SPORTS >>Cabot ladies get scare from improved ’Rabs
By JASON KING
Leader staff writer
Cabot swept Lonoke Tuesday night at LHS in two very different types of games. The Lady Panthers needed a pair of free throws from Maddie Helms with less than 10 seconds left in the game to overtake a much-improved Lady Jackrabbit team 46-45. The Panthers proved dominant over the ‘Rabbits during the opening minutes of their 57-39 win.
Panther sophomores Austin Johnson and Adam Sterrenberg caused a runaway early in the boys contest. The young duo combined for 25 first half points, accounting for all but nine points of Cabot’s totals in the first two frames.
The Jackrabbits rallied before the end of the contest, but the deficit was much too large to overcome.
Sterrenberg started things off for the Panthers with a basket and foul shot to give Cabot a 3-0 lead, but Clarence Harris answered that with a three-point shot at the 4:08 mark of the first quarter to tie the score at 3-3. From that point on, however, it was all Cabot. The Panthers rolled off 13 straight points in the remaining four minutes of the period, and then outscored their cross-county rival 18-7 in the next frame to take a 34-11 lead at the half.
Johnson and Sterrenberg were not timid when it came to driving to the hoop. Sterrenberg hit a three pointer in the middle of the first, followed by a strong drive inside around Lonoke defenders Sammy Coleman and Kylon Boyd on the next drive for two off the glass. Johnson did the majority of his damage in the second frame, scoring seven of his nine first-half points on a three pointer and two shots in the paint.
Senior post Alex Sharpe also held things down inside during the first half. Sharpe came away with six points in the first 16 minutes, but more importantly controlled the boards, allowing very few second or third shot opportunities from Lonoke.
The ‘Rabbits got plenty of looks in the game, but had a number of close shots roll off the rim and into the waiting hands of 6’8” Sharpe.
Bradley Spencer came alive for Lonoke in the third quarter. An eight-point performance for Spencer in the third wasn’t enough to pull any closer to the Panthers, but did push the ‘Rabbits’ totals into a more respectable figure.
Cabot still controlled the game 50-36 with 3:13 left in the game, and the remainder was completed with mostly subs on the court for both teams.
Sterrenberg led all scorers with 22 points. Johnson added 13 points for Cabot and Sharp finished with 10. For Lonoke, Spencer had 12 points.
Experience and senior leadership was the difference in the Cabot ladies’ win. After Cabot’s annihilation of Lonoke a week earlier in the final round of the RAPA tournament, most people expected little from the rematch between the two on Tuesday. The Lady ‘Rabbits changed all of that rather quickly, however, proving in the early going that the turnover-riddled team of a week earlier was nowhere to be seen.
The Lady Panthers rolled out to an early 11-5 advantage. A three from Helms put the Lady Panthers up by seven with 2:16 left in the first half, but Lonoke senior Calisha Kirk answered back for the Lady ’Rabbits.
Kirk began to control things inside, putting up four points in the final minute of the opening frame. Kirk also came down with some key defensive rebounds that allowed the Lady Jackrabbits to pull even closer in the second quarter.
Kirk hit three inside shots in the opening minutes of the second frame, along with a jumper from teammate Kristy Shinn to pull to within one, 19-18. A pair of free throws from Jamie Sterrenberg put Cabot’s lead back up to three, but Shinn erased that with a three pointer with 3:21 left in the half to tie the game at 21 all.
The two teams traded shots from there on, ending with a steal and fast-break layup from Kirk to give the Lady ‘Rabbits a 27-26 lead at the half.
Both squads maintained momentum in the second half. Lonoke pulled ahead by as much as six, but the Lady Panthers rallied on the shoulders of junior Lauren Walker. Walker had played a bit rowdy in the first half, committing unnecessary fouls and taking forced shots. Her demeanor was much more controlled in the second half, as she rolled off six points in the final four minutes of the third to pull the Lady Panthers back to within two points, 37-35 heading into the final quarter.
The final period was a good old- fashioned shootout. Rachel Glover grabbed the lead for Cabot to start the quarter with a basket and foul. She hit the free throw afterward to put the Lady Panthers up 38-37, followed by two more from Walker to put Cabot up by three. Jenny Evans and Kirk answered inside for Lonoke with a pair of baskets, but Walker stayed hot for Cabot with another shot to put the Lady Panthers up 44-41.
Kirk hit from the inside once again for the Lady ‘Rabbits with 2:06 left in the game. Both teams then had steals, neither of which were converted. Walker’s magic touch finally ran out with less than a minute left in the game, and Lauren Harper grabbed the rebound for the Lady ‘Rabbits.
Glover fouled Asiah Scribner, setting up an inbounds for Lonoke with 33 seconds remaining. The Lady ‘Rabbits struggled to get the ball across mid-court, but once across, Scribner found Kirk wide open under the basket for two with only 13 seconds remaining.
The Lady Panthers put the ball in the hands of their most experienced player, and the move paid off. Helms drove to the basket with only 2.8 seconds left on the clock. She missed the shot, but drew the foul from Michaela Brown. Helms was all focus on the foul shots, despite all the noise from the Lonoke bleachers. With one needed to tie and two needed to win, the Wofford College signee swished both ends, setting the final margin and securing the close win for the Lady Panthers.
Walker led Cabot with 12 points. Kirk led all scorers for Lonoke with 18 points. The win improved the Lady Panthers’ season record to 4-1.