Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SPORTS>>Panthers shake off first-round loss to beat Bruins, Mustangs

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers rebounded from a disappointing, self-destructive, opening-round loss in the CAC Invitational to win the consolation bracket with a see-saw 60-52 victory over host Central Arkansas Christian on Saturday afternoon.

On Thursday, the Panthers, now 7-2, failed to take care of the basketball down the stretch in a 65-62 loss to Mills, but bounced back on Friday with their second victory in five days over Pulaski Academy, 65-50.

The CAC game threatened to be taking the same form as the loss to Mills when the Panthers allowed a 10-point lead with 1:40 left in the game to dwindle to 53-48 with 58 seconds left after a CAC three-pointer, a turnover on the inbounds play and two Mustang free throws.

But Cabot, which missed three straight free throws late, made 7 of its final 8 to secure the win.

Adam Sterrenberg scored 13 of his 19 points after intermission, including two free throws with 47 seconds left that extended Cabot’s precarious lead to 55-48. CAC responded with a bucket to narrow the gap to five again and after Miles Monroe made 1 of 2 charities and CAC turned it over, Austin Johnson went to the line and made two free throws with 19 seconds to seal it.

It was a sluggish start for the Panthers who made only two of their first nine shots and fell behind the spirited Mustangs 8-2 in the early going. But Cabot got it going late in the period, knocking down its final four shots to take a 16-12 lead after one period.

Sharp-shooting guard Jack Bridges, who had been encouraged by his coach and father Jerry Bridges to look to pass first and shoot second in recent games, was given the green light on Saturday – and with good results. The senior made three consecutive three pointers over a two-minute, 23 second span as Cabot began to pull away.

The lead grew to 30-15 on Johnson’s insidebucket off a nice feed from Gary Clark at the 3:10 mark of the first half. A couple of late baskets inside by Scott Cook sent CAC to the locker room down 34-26.

Cabot got its fast break going early in the second half, scoring four times inside to open up a 45-28 lead. But the Panthers suddenly couldn’t find the rim and didn’t score over a six-minute, 58-second span, allowing the Mustangs to go on a 13-0 run and whittle the lead to 45-41 with 6:00 left in the game.

Monroe ended the drought with a rebound basket with 5:43 left and Johnson answered CAC’s ensuring basket with a drive from the left wing for a lay-up. Two free throws by Sterrenberg and Monroe’s lay-up appeared to have Cabot breathing easily with a 53-43 lead with 1:40 left.

CAC rallied with a Carter Trent three and two free throws by Ryan Lamberson after Cabot threw the inbounds pass away.

In addition to Sterrenberg’s 19 points, two assists and two steals, Bridges added 11 points, while Johnson dished out three assists, had two steals and scored 10 points. Monroe added nine points, eight boards, two assists and three steals. Clark scored six and had three assists and two steals. Seth Bloomberg came off the bench to make three steals.

Cabot had 12 steals and forced 20 turnovers, though the Panthers were outrebounded 31-27. They made 19 of 44 shots and dished out 13 assists.