SPORTS >>Cabot stumbles in first game against Vilonia
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
The Cabot boys got off to a slow start Tuesday night in their season opener against Vilonia. The Eagles went away from Cabot High with a 55-47 victory over their hosts. Long scoring droughts were supposed to be a thing of the past for the Cabot boys, but the Panthers went nearly the entire third quarter without a bucket from the field. It’s something that Cabot coach Jerry Bridges told his team may happen over the course of the season, but it wasn’t the poor shooting that bothered the head Panther the most.
“We didn’t play defense,” Bridges said. “We gave up way too many easy shots. We stress defense all the time. We’ve been stressing keeping the ball out of the lane, and we just didn’t do that.”
The shooting woes did contribute, but Bridges wasn’t using it as an excuse.
“I told them that I don’t care how well you shoot, there’s going to be four or five games this year where none of you are going to be able to hit anything. I didn’t know it was going to be the first game, but we took 65 shots and only made 17.
That’s more shots than we’ve had in two games at times last year. But still, 47 points would have been enough to win a game like that last year too because we played defense last year.”
Despite a major height disadvantage, Vilonia out-rebounded Cabot 40-24. Bridges chalks that up to defense as well.
“I consider rebounding defense because you play until someone has it,” Bridges said. “They just worked harder than we did and whipped us. That’s all that is. You can’t always shoot well, but one thing you can control is your defense. You can bring it every single night out there, and we didn’t. That’s what we’re telling them, but right now they weren’t buying into it. Either they will or there’s going to be a lot of tough nights.”
The bucket came with 1:07 left in the quarter, and cut Vilonia’s lead down from 12 to 10. It was only one point, 23-22, at halftime, but Cabot’s poor shooting and good hustle by the smaller Eagles extended the lead.
With three minutes left in the game, Cabot cut the margin to four at 47-43 and embarked upon a tremendous defensive tear. Junior post Sam Bates got a steal and layup, but that was all the points Cabot would get out of the flurry of steals.
Senior guard Jacob Trammell forced back-to-back Vilonia turnovers with his on-ball defense, but fellow senior guard Justin Haas missed three-pointers after each stop.
Sophomore guard Adam Sterrenberg then got two more steals on consecutive Vilonia possessions, but he missed two three pointers as well, leaving Cabot with only two points after forcing turnovers on five straight Vilonia possessions.
After weathering the storm, the Eagles got back on track and the press offense began to pay dividends. Vilonia scored twice on layups after breaking Cabot’s press, and the Panthers were forced to begin fouling. Vilonia hit six of eight free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
Despite the lackluster effort, Bridges said Friday that he’s been pleased with his team’s response to the loss.
“After they watched the film they were embarrassed by it,” Bridges said. “It’s not January and we’ve got good kids. I want people to know that. They’ve worked hard all week and we’re going to get better. We’re going to play better next Tuesday than we did in this one. I can’t guarantee you we’re going to win, but we’re going to play better. Lonoke is going to be tough.
They’re a lot more athletic than Vilonia, but we’re going to play better than we did.”
Cabot’s Alex Sharp and Sterrenberg, and Vilonia post Brad Norris each scored 12 points to tie for top-scoring honors.
Trammell pitched in nine for the Panthers, as did Josh Smith and Taylor Martin for Vilonia.
Cabot made four of 16 three-point attempts. Vilonia hit two of five.
The girls game was fast paced from start to finish, and the Lady Panthers prevailed 84-73. The 11-point margin was the biggest of the game, but one Cabot held a few times over the course of the action.
The lead reached 11 for the first time midway through the second quarter while the Lady Panthers were pressuring the ball in man defense.
They briefly switched to a zone, but the Lady Eagles busted it by hitting four three pointers to trim the margin to 34-30 with 2:05 left in the half.
Cabot came out of the break on fire offensively. Junior guard Leah Watts hit her fourth three pointer of the half and Cabot scored 10 points in the final 1:50, but Vilonia kept it close and trailed 44-37 at the break.
Vilonia adjusted its defense at the break to contain the perimeter of Cabot. The Lady Panthers hit seven three pointers in the first half, but only made one the entire second half. It made little difference in Cabot’s ability to score. Sophomore post Shelby Ashcraft handled the scoring load in the third quarter while junior post Rachel Glover took over in the fourth.
Cabot also did a good job from the line when the Lady Eagles were forced to begin fouling. The Lady Panthers hit 13 of 19 free throws in the second half, including 11 of 13 in the fourth quarter. They hit 18 of 26 foul shots for the game.
All five Cabot starters finished in double figures. Watts led all scorers with 20 points, including 16 in the first half.
Glover totaled 15 points and had six rebounds and two steals. Ashcraft and senior point guard Maddie Helms totaled 14 points while Sterrenberg finished with 13. Junior Lauren Walker came off the bench to chip in the other eight points for Cabot.
Vilonia forward Constance Alcon led all scorers with 31 points. Tiffany Bonds added 15 while Elizabeth Clites scored 10 for the Lady Eagles.
Cabot held a whopping 28-15 rebounding advantage, and im-proved to 3-1 on the season.
The Cabot boys and girls will host Lonoke next Tuesday.