Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SPORTS>>Panthers hold off Zebras

Leader sportswriter

Pine Bluff refused to go quietly on Monday night at Panther Pavilion.

So Cabot called on its go-to guy, and Adam Sterrenberg delivered with 19 second-half points as the Panthers held off the Zebras, 68-53. Sterrenberg finished with 26 points.

Cabot’s 8-0 run in the final two minutes of the third quarter gave the hosts a 51-33 lead but Pine Bluff answered with 10 straight points.

“We don’t want anybody to leave early,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “We want to keep them in their seats. We’ve got to get a killer instinct that when we get teams down to keep them down, because that’s going to come back and haunt us. We get a little too relaxed defensively. At times, our defense looks real good. We’re swarming – everybody’s helping and we’re there.

Then we get in that comfort zone and we drop our guard.”

The Zebras kept Sterrenberg contained well during the first half, holding the Arkansas State signee to only seven points. Austin Johnson and post player Miles Monroe picked up the slack during that time to establish the early lead for Cabot. It was a leadit held for the duration, despite a strong second-half effort from the Zebras.

The Panthers put Pine Bluff’s 11 first-half turnovers to good use. A steal by Jack Bridges led to a three-point shot by Austin Johnson at the 3:18 mark of the first quarter to put Cabot up 8-4, and back-to-back miscues by the Zebras to start the second quarter allowed the Panthers to go on a 12-0 run and take a 25-12 lead at the 4:03 mark.

Cabot spread its scoring around, particularly in the first half, but most of Pine Bluff’s points came from the duo of Cameron Luckett and Stephen Collins. Luckett led the Zebras with 18 points. Collins was right behind him with 17.

The Panther lead got as high as 13 in the first half, but a three and another basket for Collins cut it to 25-17 with 2:57 left in the half. Johnson put the advantage back to double digits with a shot in the paint assisted by Alex Baker. Johnson then pulled down a defensive rebound and turned it into two more points to set the halftime score at 32-20.

The final two minutes of the third quarter was all Sterrenberg. He hit a three pointer at the 2:18 mark and another less than a minute later to put the Panthers up 46-33. He then got a steal and a jam to extend the lead to 15.

It was a complete turnaround for Sterrenberg after a first half of limited looks. Bridges was pleased to see the support on the floor during that time.

“What’s good for our team is that during that stretch we still maintained a lead,” Bridges said. “I thought Alex Baker did a great job there coming off the bench. I thought Miles did much better establishing himself in the post, and we have to have that.

Jack did a great job making passes. Gary Clark’s up there getting on the boards, and Alex Baker is a great spark off the bench. We call him the microwave. He’s capable of heating it up for us.”

Baker pulled down the rebound on a missed Zebra shot, which led to a nice spin and shoot under the basket by Monroe with an assist from Sterrenberg. He also drew a foul, completing the and-one for a 51-33 Cabot lead.

The Zebras needed a late spark to stay in the game, and they got it when Monroe drew his fifth personal foul with 2:22 left to play. Monroe had been the dominator on the glass all night and led all players with eight rebounds. He wasn’t forced to do it alone, however, with seven boards for Johnson, six for Clark and five for Sterrenberg, who also added three steals.

“We’ve just got to check our men off better when we all five go to the boards,” Bridges said. “We’ve got some that occasionally wanting to try and cheat out here and there. I thought even my little guys rebounded well.”

Johnson added 15 points for Cabot, with 12 more from Monroe. Baker came off the bench for 10 points. The Panthers are 2-0 and will begin tournament play in Searcy on Dec. 1.