Leader Blues

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SPORTS>> Cabot girls upset Conway on late bucket by Rock

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

CONWAY — Amber Rock hit a short jumper with four seconds left to lift Cabot to a 47-45 conference-opening win over Conway on Friday night. Rock scored the Lady Panthers’ final seven points of the game.

“(Conway) was coming off a loss to North Little Rock so they weren’t in the best of moods,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “We played very well. To beat the defending state champions at their place is big.”

Conway’s big post player N’Dra Robertson was back in action after missing the past month with an injury, but Cabot defenders Rachael Glover and Sara Moore limited her to 11 points, only four after intermission.

Cabot had not played since the Greenbrier tournament in late December, but showed no ill effects from the layoff nor from the 31-point loss to Vilonia in that tourney.

“You’re going to have that happen once or twice a year,” Ruple said. “Friday night was like two heavyweights battling. It wasn’t maybe very pretty, but it was a win.”

Cabot, which improved to 11-3 and 1-0 in league play, got 14 points from Shelby Ashcraft and 13 from Glover, while Rock added seven and Moore six. The Lady Panthers led 27-21 at the half after hitting 55 percent from the field, but Conway rallied to tie the game with a minute to go.

“I think they thought we’d hold it for the last shot, but we were looking for the first good shot,” Ruple said. “Amber drove in and got a good look.”

Cabot returned to 7A-Central action when it hosted Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday in a game played after Leader deadlines.

CONWAY BOYS 80, CABOT 66

Cabot’s struggles with 7A Central foe Conway continued on Friday night in a road loss to the Wampus Cats.

The Panthers lost three times to Conway last season, including in the semifinals of the state tournament. Their first loss this season was a heartbreaking two-point setback to the Wampus Cats in the finals of the Searcy Bank Classic when Jack Bridges’ game-winning three rimmed out at the buzzer.

The 14-point margin on Friday doesn’t tell the whole story. After falling behind by 11 points after one period, Cabot whittled the deficit to six by intermission and stayed close to the end. The Panthers were down only four with three-and-a-half minutes remaining.

But that was as close as they’d get. It wasn’t the loss so much as the play of his team that had head coach Jeff Bridges scratching his head on Monday.

“Our shot selection was poor and we just made poor decisions,” said Bridges as his Panthers fell to 10-4. It was Cabot’s first game since Dec. 30. “We had opportunities to cut into their lead. We’ve got to find a way to beat (Conway), but we’re not going to do it running with them.”

Austin Johnson led the way with 24 points, with Adam Sterrenberg adding 19. Post man Miles Monroe had 14, but Bridges thinks his center needs more touches.

“We’ve got to get the ball to the big men more,” Bridges said. “Miles played great out of the gate, but he got a few ticky fouls and had to go to the bench.”

The 80 points the Panthers surrendered is indicative of the need for Cabot to alter its style, Bridges said.

“We’ve got to be more selective in our shot selection; we’ve got to grow from this,” he said. “We’re coming down and shooting way too quickly. We’re not getting to the free-throw line and we’re settling for way too many jump shots. We score 66, we usually win the game.”

But Bridges is hardly panicking, citing last year’s 0-3 start to the conference race before Cabot won 7 of its final 11 to reach postseason for the first time in 31 years.

“We’re still making progress,” he said. “We’ve just got to take our practice to the game floor, trust that your teammates know what they’re doing. We’re not there yet. But I’m not about to give up. There’s still 13 games to go.”

The first of those was last night when Cabot hosted Catholic, the defending 7A state champions, in a game played after Leader deadlines.