Leader Blues

Friday, January 05, 2007

SPORTS >>Cabot ladies top Tigers, boys beaten by late rally

IN SHORT: The Panther basketball teams split their 7A-Central openers Tuesday at LR Central.

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers pulled away in the second half of a close game, while the boys fell behind late and couldnít recover in the 7A-Central Conference opener for both teams at Little Rock Central Tuesday night.

The girls 56-45 win was extremely close for a little more than a quarter. The Lady Panthers raced out to a big lead in the first half of the first quarter, only to find themselves leading by one point, 12-11, by the time the quarter ended.

Senior point guard Maddie Helms and senior forward Jamie Sterrenberg picked up three steals each, junior forward Lauren Walker got two and Helms and Walker scored six points each to lead the Lady Panthers in a first-quarter onslaught that almost ended the game as soon as it started.

The Lady Tigers had no answer for Cabotís defense, be it extended pressure or of the half-court variety. Cabot forced 13 Central turnovers in the first period, including four before the Lady Tigers could take a shot.

Somehow Central weathered the storm and came back, and with a vengeance.

It began midway through the first period with Cabot leading 12-4 and seemingly dominating the game. Central had taken only two shots and committed six turnovers when Helms went to the bench with her second foul and Central began to come back. The Lady Tigers scored 11 straight points over the next few minutes to take a 15-12 lead early in the second quarter.

Central finally ended the 15-2 run holding a 19-14 lead with 4:56 remaining in the first half. The Lady Panthers tied it at 19 with 2:23 left. The two teams traded buckets for the last two minutes and went into intermission still knotted at 23-23.

Helms sat out the last few minutes of the half, but made her presence known again immediately in the third quarter. She quickly picked up three more steals to spark a 9-2 run that put Cabot up 34-27 with 2:16 left in the third.

Central called timeout and regrouped, but could never mount the same rally as in the first half. The game hovered around an eight-point margin for the next several minutes, but Cabot extended the lead to 10 early in the fourth and never allowed Central to get back into the game.

A three pointer by Helms and an inside bucket by junior Rachel Glover were the only field goals Cabot needed in the fourth quarter. The Lady Panthers did the rest from the foul line, hitting eight of 10 in the final frame to secure the win.

Helms led all players with 16 points and six steals. She also had five rebounds and four assists. Walker finished with 12 for Cabot while Glover chipped in nine.

Point guard Breanna Barnes led Central with 12 points.

The boys led for most of the first half, but couldnít hang on to the ball in the third quarter as the Tigers pulled away for a 66-47 win.

Cabot dominated the paint and the boards in the first half while Central struggled from the field. The Panthersí size may have intimidated the smallish Tigers into settling for outside shots early. Central attempted 11 threes in the first half and only made one.

Cabot attempted only five, but made three while seniors Alex Sharp and Sam Bates controlled the inside.

Central still managed to take a 25-23 lead into halftime, thanks partly to a dubious charging call and a little luck.

Cabot forward Austin Johnson was called for a charge on a spin move and bucket with eight seconds left that would have given Cabot a 25-23 lead. Instead, Centralís Melvin King missed a three, but the rebound bounced long off the back of the iron where Eric Brooks caught it in midair, released and hit the shot right at the buzzer.

Central went into halftime with the lead and momentum, and came out of it with a revised game plan.

The Tigers were no longer willing to settle for outside shots, and the Panther defense did not do well in stopping Centralís penetration.

The third quarter started well for Cabot. Bates and Johnson combined to score the first five points of the period and gave the Panthers a 28-25 lead, but from there it was all Tigers. Central scored seven straight to take a 32-28 lead before Cabot cut it back to two at 34-32 with a little less than five minutes left in the third. Then the run started in earnest.

King and teammate Keith Freeman hit back-to-back three pointers just before a King steal led to a Freeman layup. In a flash, it was a nine-point margin and Cabot never fully recovered.

The Panthers committed nine turnovers in the third quarter under the pressure of Centralís defense. That paved the way for a 16-3 run that gave the home team a 50-35 lead by the end of the period.

Brooks led all scorers with 20 points. Anthony Hurvey added 15 and King 14 for the Tigers.

Sharp led Cabot with 12 points while Johnson came off the bench to pitch in 11.

Cabot traveled to Conway last night after Leader deadlines. Look for details of that game in Wednesdayís edition of The Leader.