Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SPORTS >> Sterrenberg, Cabot still hot, beat Central

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

No one preaches the team concept of basketball more than Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. And it’s clear that his appreciation for his role players is passionate and genuine.

But over the past five games, Adam Sterrenberg is making it difficult to talk about anybody else. The Arkansas State signee added another standout performance to a remarkable five-game stretch, scoring 27 points to lead Cabot to a 62-47 win over a dangerous Little Rock Central team on Friday night at the Panther Pavilion.

Sterrenberg’s output brought his five-game total to 143 points, or just under 29 per game, as Cabot won its sixth in a row.

“He’s one of the best in the state and I don’t think he gets the recognition he deserves,” Bridges said. “I’m his coach and I may be biased, but the numbers speak for themselves. You can’t mention (Baylor-bound Little Rock Hall guard) A.J. Walton or (Oklahoma State-bound Fayetteville guard) Fred Gulley without mentioning Adam Sterrenberg.”

The victory kept Cabot in a tie with Conway for first place in the 7A Central at 8-2. The Panthers improved to 18-5 overall.

The Panthers were 2-2 and trailing by nine late against Russellville on Jan. 30 when Sterrenberg erupted for 22 points in the final five minutes as Cabot rallied for a critical win. Neither the Panthers, nor Sterrenberg, have faltered since. They rallied against Conway, then won at Catholic and North Little Rock before breaking open a tight game against Central on Friday.

The game was knotted at 34 when Sterrenberg hit a three-pointer and a buzzer-beating 18-footer over the final 52 seconds of the third period to put Cabot ahead for good.

“Central’s a good team, folks,” Bridges said. “They’ve got young talent and a good mix. They’re quick, athletic and their big men can get to the post. This was a very dangerous game and I didn’t sleep much worrying about it.

“But what was big was Adam hitting that shot at the end of the third quarter that got it to five.”

Central kept pace early in the final period, but a Sterrenberg runner and spin basket followed by four free throws opened up an 11-point lead and Central never got closer the rest of the way. Cabot made all 16 of their free throws in the second half, 19 of 21 overall.

Sterrenberg scored only six points in the first half, but Jack Bridges bookended the first-quarter scoring with three-pointers and Austin Johnson scored 10 points in the first half and that allowed the Panthers to get to the locker room in a 24-24 tie. That, despite being dominated on the boards 20-9.

The Panthers overcame their rebounding disadvantage by taking nearly perfect care of the basketball. They turned the ball over just once in the first half and had none in the third quarter. They finished with six giveaways.

“That’s been a trait of ours all season,” Bridges said. “We’re not a great rebounding team so we have to be good in other areas. Taking care of the ball is one of those.”

Central shot it well from the perimeter in the first half, knocking down 5 of 11 from three, but the Tigers (11-10, 4-7) cooled down in the second half to finish 7 of 20 from deep.

The lead switched hands nine times in the third period. Cabot fell behind 33-30 late in the period before Miles Monroe scored on a reverse, and Sterrenberg made a pair of free throws to briefly put the Panthers back on top. After a Central charity knotted the game at 34 with 1:10 left, Sterrenberg delivered a three-pointer and followed that with a well-guarded, lean-in 18-footer at the buzzer.

Cabot began to hit the glass in the second half and finished with a 16-12 advantage after intermission. Gary Clark got four of his five boards in the second half.

“Gary and Jack probably don’t get the credit they deserve,” Bridges said. “We all read about the scoring and this, that and the other, but there’s so much to the game of basketball and we’ve got other guys believing in their roles. Gary did his job rebounding for us tonight. Jack’s probably going to lead us in assists about every night, but he hit some big shots tonight.

“Adam and Austin are going to get their points, but we’ve all got to do those other things.”

Johnson scored 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds and two steals and handed out three assists. Bridges finished with nine points. Monroe and Alex Baker added six apiece.

Next up for Cabot was a trip to last-place Bryant for a game played after Leader deadlines last night. The Panthers also have two games left with Van Buren and a trip to Russellville to close out the regular season.

“I know this qualified us for the state tournament,” Bridges said of the win over the Tigers. “Now we’re just trying to jockey for position. If it comes down to the final week and we’ve got a chance to play for the conference championship, great. I’m proud of the kids for what they’ve been doing.”