Leader Blues

Monday, December 03, 2007

SPORTS >>Panthers nip Bruins late

Leader sports writer

Cabot recovered from a rematch loss to Vilonia earlier in the week to take a close 57-55 win over Pulaski Academy Thursday night at the CHS gymnasium. The Panthers built up a lead a high as 14 points in the third quarter, but had to hold off a late surge by the Bruins in the final eight minutes to pull out the narrow win.

Cabot coach Jerry Bridges believes the strong effort all the way through on Thursday was a product of some shame felt by his team after they watched themselves give up a 13 point lead to Vilonia on tape from two days earlier.

“We watched the film,” Bridges said. “I think the kids were pretty disappointed with what they saw. We played terrible that night, and I don’t think they realized exactly how terrible it was until they actually saw it. We had a good effort, and most importantly, it was a complete 32-minute effort.”

Adam Sterrenberg led the Panthers with 18 points, including 10 of 10 from the free throw line. Sam Bates added 14 points and nine rebounds.

Miles Monroe had eight points and nine rebounds, with seven points from Austin Johnson. The Panthers improved to 3-1 on the season.

The Panthers accumulated themselves a solid 31-18 lead over Vilonia through one half of play, but watched hopelessly as the Eagles turned the entire second half into one big rally. Vilonia ended up with a 48-42 win in the re match between the two teams during the opening round of the Searcy Bank Classic tournament at SHS.

The Eagles generated half of their total points in the fourth quarter alone, rolling off 24 points, eight of which came from the charity stripe against the Panthers to take control of the scoreboard down the stretch.

“You have to play like you practice,” Bridges said. “In games like that, you have to bring it for the whole 32 minutes, and we just didn’t do that in the second half. I thought we played well in the first half, but we quit making shots in the second half.

The thing I’m disappointed most about is the fact that we stopped playing good defense in the second half. Coach (Mike) Tucker and myself have been trying to stress to these guys that you have to play strong for two halves and not just one, but it’s still early, and we think we have a lot of great potential on this team.”

Scoring was not a problem for the Panthers in the first half, but six turnovers during the third quarter brought all of the early momentum to a halt, as Vilonia relied on a 10-0 run in the middle of the frame to narrow the gap to 35-32 heading into the final eight minutes. Cabot ended up with a mere four points during the entire third frame, as the Eagles sealed off the inside threat from junior post Miles Monroe, while simultaneously containing the outside prowess of shooting guard Adam Sterrenberg.

Bridges was happy with the 6 of 7 floor performance from NLR junior transfer post player Monroe, but hopes that the team will call his number more in future games.

“He had a great first half, and the kids just forgot about him,” Bridges said. “When he’s on like that, we need to be getting the ball to him more. I thought he showed some flashes of what he’s capable of.”

Sterrenberg ignited a huge run for the Panthers in the second quarter with 11 of his game-high 17 points, but an injury in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter took Cabot’s best all-purpose scoring threat off the floor for nearly five minutes. In the meantime, Vilonia overturned what was a 37-34 deficit at the time Sterrenberg left the court to a 42-38 lead by the time junior was able to re-enter the game with 2:13 remaining.

A Sterrenberg jumper at the 6:27 mark of the third quarter answered an early basket by Vilonia’s Jacob Moore to make the score 33-20, and from there, the wheels fell off for the Panthers. The Eagles proceeded to click off 10 unanswered points to pull to within three at 33-30 before a pair of free throws by Monroe finally stopped the bleeding for Cabot. That made it 35-30, but Vilonia would answer once again before the buzzer with two foul shots by Luke Bartlett to pull the Eagles to within one possesion heading into the fourth quarter.

A stream of turnovers prevented much scoring for either team during the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. A basket by Bartlett at the 4:35 mark finally completed the comeback for Vilonia with a 38-38 tie, and it didn’t take long for them to top the Panthers on the scoreboard from there.

Riley hit a pair of free throws to give the Eagles the lead at 40-38, but the turnover bug bit for both teams again from there. Nathan Paul picked off two passes from Panthers point guard Trey Rosel in between a steal by Cabot’s Sam Bates. The Panthers finally retained possesion on their side, but a three-point attempt by Austin Johnson fell short, and Vilonia grabbed the rebound.

Riley ended up at the charity stripe once again for the Eagles on the ensuing possession, and converted both ends to put Vilonia up by four at 42-38. Riley ended up 6 for 6 from the line in the fourth quarter to make up the exact difference in the final margin.

Sterrenberg led the Panthers with 17 points, while Monroe added 15 points for Cabot. For Vilonia, Luke Bartlett led all scorers with 19 points, and Jordan Riley added 15 points for the Eagles. Cabot falls to 1-1 on the year, and took on Wynne in the consolation bracket Friday. Vilonia improves to 2-1 with the win, and played Mountain Home in the semifinals Friday night after Leader deadlines.