Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

SPORTS >>Wolves top Cabot

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

A strong second half from Lake Hamilton prevented the Cabot Panthers from taking their second-straight Ortho Arkansas tournament title on Saturday. The Wolves downed the Panthers 56-46 in the finals at the Diles Activities Center on the campus of Central Arkansas Christian.

Cabot fell behind early, but sophomore standout Adam Sterrenberg lifted the Panthers into the lead by the 3:19 mark of the second quarter with eight straight points from the end of the opening period until his two free throws in the second gave Cabot its only lead in the contest at 15-14.

The score was tied at 17-17 with only 1:29 left in the first half when Andy Lee and Dennis Fuller hit back-to-back three pointers for Lake Hamilton to give the Wolves a 23-17 lead at halftime, and the momentum going into the second half.
They would not relinquish either for the rest of the game.

“Those nine straight points at the end of the first half were the difference in this game,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “We couldn’t hit shots in the second half, we just played flat. They are a well-coached bunch, and they played a great game. It’s like I said before, ‘One of the Bridges was going to win it.’” It was the first time Jerry Bridges faced brother Jamie Bridges in a game-situation, and it would be the older Bridges brother that would take the win on this night.

Sterrenberg came out strong for the Panthers in the second half, hitting two early shots, including a three-pointer from about 30 feet to rally Cabot to within two points. His three cut the Wolves’ lead to 26-24 with 4:48 left in the third quarter, but it was as close as the Panthers would come.

Senior post Alex Sharpe finally came alive inside for the Panthers in the final two minutes of the game, but it would be too little, too late. Sharpe’s two late baskets kept the margin at 10, but the Panthers could not make up any more points on the stingy Wolves’ defense. Lake Hamilton claimed an early 7-3 lead off the heels of a three-point basket from Lee at the 5:18 mark of the first quarter. Lee would end up as high scorer in the game with 19 points, 15 of which came from his five shots beyond the arc. Lee’s 71 percent average from the three-point line was impossible for Cabot to answer, especially in the second half, when leading scorer Sterrenberg lost his touch from the outside.

The sophomore did have the touch in the first two frames, however. Eight of his total 19 points in the game came in the opening moments of the second quarter, propelling Cabot into a 17-14 lead with 2:45 left in the first half. A basket and free throw from Austin Bush tied the game with a little over a minute remaining before Lee and Fuller’s threes put the Wolves back in control.

After only two points and one rebound in the first half, Sharpe moved farther out to start the second half. The move looked as if it would pay off initially. Sharpe scored the first points of the second half with a jumper in the paint, and followed that with a rare three-point attempt that fell just off the mark. Sharpe did manage to make more of a difference on the boards in the final half, grabbing four rebounds.

The Panthers were still alive with 2:22 left in the third quarter. A jumper from Austin Johnson with an assist from Sharpe cut Lake Hamilton’s lead to 33-27, but the Wolves answered with more stunning outside shooting. Lee nailed another one from three-point land, directly followed by a three from Sanders Roark to give the Wolves a 38-27 lead. Lake Hamilton slowed the pace of the game from that point, keeping the ball for over a minute at a time on each possession, denying the Panthers an opportunity to claw their way back into contention.

Lee for Lake Hamilton and Sterrenberg for Cabot both finished the game with 19 points. Lee had seven rebounds compared to five for Sterrenberg. Sterrenberg was also 7 for 9 from the free-throw line. Johnson added 12 points for Cabot, and Sharpe finished with nine points, five rebounds and three blocks. The loss made the Panthers runners up for the Ortho tourney, and moved their record to 3-2 for the season.

Cabot bounced back from the loss by notching a win Monday in the first round of the Wampus Cat Invitational. The Panthers beat Van Buren ?? in overtime to advance to a second-round match between the winner of last night’s game between Jacksonville and Benton.

A win is always good, but Cabot coach Jerry Bridges wishes his team would have made Monday’s win a little easier on itself. Cabot blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to allow the Pointers to tie it and send it to overtime. “We didn’t keep doing the things that got us the lead and they came back on us,” Bridges said. “The credit goes to Van Buren for not giving up. I’m still happy. That’s a quality win for us. They’re thinking this is one of Van Buren’s better teams and we found a way to win it.”
With Cabot trailing by one point, Panther senior guard Justin Haas hit a three pointer with 55 seconds to go to put the Panthers up by two points, a lead they would not relinquish. Cabot will play the winner of Jacksonville-Benton at 5:30 Friday.