Leader Blues

Friday, January 23, 2009

SPORTS>>Lady Panthers overcome sloppy play

Leader sports editor

It was not a game you’d want to send to the basketball hall of fame. One team shot poorly, the other shot it fairly well … when it wasn’t turning the ball over.

But the Cabot Lady Panthers will take a win in a game in which they turned it over 25 times. They can thank a 16-rebound advantage, nearly 50 percent shooting from the field and the inside defensive presence of Sarah Moore and Shelby Ashcraft for escaping with a 48-38 victory at Little Rock Central on Tuesday night.

“Central is tough to play,” said Cabot assistant Charles Ruple. “They’re very physical and extremely quick. We certainly don’t match up well with them in those areas. Of course, they don’t match up well with us either.”

The Lady Panthers, who bounced back from a home drubbing at the hands of North Little Rock last Friday, improved to 3-1 in league play, 15-4 overall. Moore blocked seven shots and Ashcraft, who also scored 12 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, blocked four to help limit Central (9-7, 2-2) to 11 of 45 shooting in the contest.

“Their continued poor shooting gave us the chance to force them inside, where our strength is,” Ruple said.

But all of that nearly wasn’t enough when a steal and a lay-up to start the final period got the Lady Tigers to within a basket. Though Amber Rock returned the favor with a steal and a basket and Rachel Glover added a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 39-33 with 4:48 left, Central responded with a three-pointer and another steal and lay-up to cut that lead to one with 4:18 left. Central would not score again.

Rock scored on a fast break after taking a feed from Jenna Bailey, who dished out six assists, and Bailey followed a Moore block at the other end with a pair of free throws to give Cabot some breathing room at 43-38 with 1:57 left.

Glover’s steal 26 seconds later resulted in two more free throws as Cabot went 9 of 11 from the stripe in the final quarter to preserve the precarious win.

Central led only twice in the game, the final time at 14-13 with 3:29 left in the first half. Cabot raced to a 6-0 lead after three straight defensive breakdowns allowed two easy inside baskets by Moore and another by Glover over the first minute-and-a-half of the game.

The Lady Panthers never trailed after Ashcraft scored inside off a looping feed from Bailey at the 3:09 mark. They led 22-16 at the half, despite 12 turnovers and just 1-of-4 shooting at the stripe. Central made only 4 of 23 shots.

“Our turnovers can be attributed to excessive dribbling for no strategic reason,” Ruple said. “And their quickness presented a problem for us when we were forced to dribble. Better passing and spacing would have served us well.”

Bailey got her only basket of the night when she drained a three-pointer 10 seconds into the second half, and a pair of rebound baskets by Glover extended the Cabot lead to 29-19 with 5:55 left in the third period.

The Lady Tigers got back into it by making 5 of 6 free throws and getting a rebound basket in the final 1:59 of the quarter and trailed only 33-31. Brooke Taylor slipped inside the lane to deliver a nifty feed to Glover for a lay-up to end the quarter. It’s was Glover’s fifth consecutive basket for the Lady Panthers. She led the way with 16 points and added seven rebounds.

Bailey, Rock and Moore each added six points and Moore had six boards as well. Amalie Benjamin came off the bench to pull down five rebounds as Cabot enjoyed a 40-24 advantage on the boards.

The Lady Panthers made 18 of 38 shots and warmed up at the line in the second half to finish 10 of 15.

“Every game in the 7A Central has a chance to look sloppy, but a win on the road is our goal when we travel,” Ruple said.

Cabot hosted red-hot Bryant (3-1) last night in a game played after Leader deadlines. The Lady Hornets were coming off a win over Conway in which they scored 92 points.