Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

SPORTS>>Rim-out at buzzer sends Panthers to loss in finals

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Jack Bridges got the exact look Cabot needed and the shot looked pure when it left his hand.

But the senior Panther guardís three-pointer from the right corner rimmed out as time expired and Conway beat Cabot 57-55 on Saturday evening in the finals of the Searcy Bank Classic. It was the first of at least three meetings this season between the 7A Central powers and, with both teams figuring to go deep into postseason, it might have been the first of four.

Three turnovers in the final two minutes sealed Cabotís doom against Conway, which trailed 55-54 after Adam Sterrenberg drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:51 left in the game.

Conway matched Cabotís giveaways down the stretch by missing four consecutive free throws, but on the fourth of those misses, Jarvis Gardner snuck in for the rebound basket, then added a free throw to put the Wampus Cats up 57-55 with 28 seconds left.

After a time out, the Panthers (4-1) got the ball over to Bridges for an open three but his shot rattled around the rim and bounced out as Conway beat Cabot for the fourth straight time over the past two seasons. Conway bounced Cabot from the state tournament in the semifinals in March.

Though Kenyon McNeaill missed all four of his critical free throws down the stretch, he hurt Cabot the rest of thenight, scoring 24 points, including three treys. His driving bucket in the lane and free throw with 4:12 left in the game put the Wampus Cats up 52-50, though Miles Monroe tied it 22 seconds later with a four-footer along the baseline.

But the Wampus Cats got a breakaway basket by Travis Jackson to go back on top with 3:25 left in the contest.

The Panthers shot the ball well, making 22 of 47 shots, but the difference turned out to be key turnovers and a 36-26 rebound advantage for Conway. As a result, the Wampus Cats got off nine more field goal attempts. Though they shot a lower percentage, they made one more shot to finish the game at 23 of 55. Conway committed only 10 turnovers.

Though Cabot turned it over just 14 times, three came down the stretch when it was trying to hold on to a one-point lead.

A pair of early threes from McNeaill, and seven straight points by Gardner, allowed Conway to open up a 19-13 lead after one period. But Cabot quickly erased that with three-pointers from Sterrenberg and Austin Johnson over the first 25 seconds of the second quarter.

Monroe scored inside and Johnson added an eight-foot pull-up to conclude a 10-0 Cabot run and put the Panthers up 23-19 in a game which featured 15 lead changes. Conwayís biggest lead was six, while Cabotís biggest lead was 41-36 when Alex Baker hit the second of his three straight bas kets with 3:20 left in the third period.

Baker finished with 10 points, while Sterrenberg led the way with 19 points. Austin Johnson scored all 11 of his points in the first half, while Monroe finished with eight points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Bridges dished out four assists and Gary Clark had four points and five rebounds.

Cabot returned to action last night against Pulaski Academy after Leader deadlines.