Leader Blues

Friday, January 16, 2009

SPORTS>>Cabot girls light it up against Belles

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers have run the gamut this season from scoring 28 points against Lake Hamilton and 27 against Vilonia and missing just about everything they throw up to looking as efficient offensively as anyone in the state.

Tuesday night at the Panther Pavilion was one of those good nights. The Lady Panthers made over 60 percent of their shots and got a monster game from Jenna Bailey in rolling to a 69-62 win over Mt. St. Mary in an entertaining, well-played game.

Bailey scored 19 points, dished out five assists and grabbed five of Cabot’s 18 steals as the Lady Panthers improved to 2-0 in the 7A Central Conference.

“I’d like to think we could play that way every night,” said head coach Carla Crowder. “But we’ve really only had a couple of bad games this year. This is a very unselfish team.”

The Lady Panthers (12-3 overall) dished out 17 assists, which was a large part of the reason they knocked down 28 of 45 shots. Still, with the Belles (6-9, 0-2) lighting it up on the other end, Cabot couldn’t put this one away until the final minute when Bailey got a bucket and a free throw off an acrobatic baseline drive to end MSM’s 12-0 run and give the Lady Panthers a 66-59 lead with 42 seconds left.

Cabot won despite five three-pointers and 19 points by Courtney Wharton and 20 points by Debbie Onukwube. In additionto Bailey’s big night, Cabot got 17 points and seven rebounds from UALR signee Shelby Ashcraft, 10 points, four assists and four steals from Amber Rock and nine points, five rebounds and four blocks from Sara Moore.

Fresh off its big road win at defending state champion Conway on Friday, Cabot came out firing on Tuesday, hitting 8 of its first 11 shots but leading by only one when Onukwube scored 10 first-quarter points. The Lady Panthers continued their torrid shooting in the second period, but MSM matched them, and when Wharton hit back-to-back three-pointers late in the half, the Belles led by three.

Stephanie Glover, who grabbed 10 rebounds and three steals and dished out five assists, hit an 8-footer along the baseline to cut the lead to one. It appeared the Lady Panthers would take a two-point lead into the locker room when Bailey hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer. But the officials gathered right before the start of the second half and ruled it came after time had expired and Cabot trailed 36-35 heading into the third period.

Cabot took the lead for good on Bailey’s free throw with 6:57 left in the third to begin a 20-5 run that propelled the Lady Panthers to a 55-41 lead with 1:06 left in the quarter. Bailey’s dish to Moore for a bucket gave Cabot a 12-point cushion heading into the final period.

Things seemed well in hand after Bailey hit a pair of free throws and Rock delivered a pass to Bailey for a lay-up that pushed the lead to 63-47 with 5:50 left in the game. But 12 straight MSM points got the Belles back into it. Onukwube’s lay-up with 1:18 whittled the Cabot lead down to a precarious four points.

Bailey slipped along the left baseline, but somehow got a floater up that came down through the net while she was being fouled.

“We expect that from Jenna,” Crowder said. “She’s a senior.”

Bailey’s free throw made it 66-59 and Lindsay Hoggatt’s two free throws with 27 seconds sealed it.

Cabot forced 23 MSM turnovers on 18 steals. The Belles cooled down in the second half but still made 24 of 50 overall, 8 of 18 from beyond the arc.

“People are going to look at the score and think there wasn’t much defense being played,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “You saw it and you know that isn’t true.”