Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

SPORTS >>Panthers escape ‘Jungle’

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

The Panthers weathered the storm from host team Searcy to come away with a 50-49 win Sat-urday in the consolation finals of the Searcy Bank Classic. Cabot led the entire way, but never by more than six points.

The closest of quarters would come at the very end, when the Lions fought back to tie the game in the final 12 seconds before Cabot junior Adam Sterrenberg made the game-winning move during the final second of the game.

Sterrenberg took the inbounds pass from Austin Johnson and quickly drove inside, hoping to draw a cheap foul. That foul came in the form of an arm slap by Searcy’s Aaron Coleman, sending one of the Panthers’ most solid free throw shooters to the line with virtually no time remaining.

Sterrenberg hit the front end, but the second shot bounced off the rim. Coleman pulled down the rebound and let off a desperation shot behind the half-court line that fell short.

“We just can’t seem to learn how to put people away,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “We got up on them and then let them come back on us. I thought we did a good job of holding them there at the end when they had all that momentum. Austin (Johnson) had some nice shots in the paint for us at the end when we needed it.”

The Panthers made a little bit of room for themselves early in the fourth quarter when a Sterrenberg jumper gave Cabot a 38-33 lead with 6:10 remaining. He would score again on the next trip down court when he put back his own miss to extend the lead to 40-33.

The Lions came back as ferocious as their name implies in the final five minutes. A sky shot by Jordan Evans pulled Searcy back to within five at 40-35, but a pair of free throws by Sterrenberg extended the advantage for Cabot once again. Evans answered for Searcy off an assist by Logan English, and converted another jumper with 3:39 left to play to pull the Lions to within four at 43-39.

Junior post Anthony Harniss pulled the Lions to within a single score with a pair of free throws after he drew the foul from Cabot guard Trey Rosel. Harness would then tie the game with an inside jumper at the 2:57 mark to make it 43-43.

The Panthers didn’t panic, they just went to the inside. Cabot took the lead back on its next possession with a shot inside by Miles Monroe wtih 2:37 left in the game, but Nathan Williams pulled Searcy even again with two free throws after being fouled by Sterrenberg.

Junior forward Austin Johnson finished with just six points in the game, but four of those points could not have come at a more crucial time. Johnson had two shots from the lane in the final two minutes, the first of which put Cabot out front 47-45, and the second followed a Harniss basket for Searcy to put the Panthers up 49-47 with exactly one minute remaining.

The Lions were set to hold for the final shot, but English found the lane he was looking for early, and drove hard to the basket to tie the game with 12 seconds remaining.

Sam Bates stepped up to take the final shot for the Panthers, but Harniss blocked his attempt. A loose-ball scramble ensued, and Coleman touched the ball just as it rolled out to give possesion to the Panthers on their side of the court with 1.9 seconds left on the clock. The attempt to draw the foul by Sterrenberg worked, and the front end shot secured the win.

For Searcy coach Jim Summers, three losses for the week was not the desired result, but the progress shown by his young squad througout the three tourney games gave him promise.

“We’re getting a definate rotation lined out,” Summers said. “I thought each game, we came out and played better and better. Sure, its’ hard to lose three at home like that, but the improvement has shown.”

Sterrenberg led the Panthers with 17 points. Monroe finished with nine points, while Derek Clarkson added eight points.

Johnson rounded out high scorers with six points. For Searcy, Evans led with 15 points, while Harniss and English each added 10. The Panthers improved to 4-2 on the season with the win, while the Lions fell to 2-4.