Leader Blues

Friday, February 06, 2009

SPORTS>>Déja vu at Panther Pavilion as Cabot wins another late

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

When post man Miles Monroe fouled out midway through the third period with Conway already up five points, the Panthers’ hopes of ending the Wampus Cats’ five-game winning streak against them dimmed significantly.

When the Cats converted Monroe’s technical foul into an eight-point lead one minute later, that streak seemed destined for six.

Even Cabot head coach Jerry Bridges admitted to a lapse of faith.

“I don’t have guys that are 6-8 to bring in for Miles off the bench,” Bridges said. “I didn’t know what (the game) was going to become at that point. You just have to move on. You can’t dwell on it.”

But for the second game in five days at the Panther Pavilion, the Cabot Panthers overcame the exact same deficit of 42-33 to win by the exact same score, 60-54, to finally bring the Cats’ frustrating streak to an end. Just as in Friday night’s 60-54 win over Russellville, Adam Sterrenberg was the key, though he got help from some unlikely sources down the stretch as Cabot improved to 5-2 in the 7A Central, 15-5 overall, and moved into a second-place tie with the Wampus Cats, a game behind first-place North Little Rock.

Sterrenberg matched his 29 points against Russellville, 11 of those in the final period. Against Russellville, Sterrenberg erupted for 22 points over the final four minutes and 55 seconds. In both games, Cabot trailed 42-33 in the second half.

Cabot began its comeback late in the third on Tuesday by turning up the defensive pressure and forcing eight Wampus Cat turnovers in the quarter.

“If you’re going to beat teams like Conway, you’re going to have to play some defense,” Bridges said. “It hasn’t been one of our strengths, but we’re getting better at it. We were trying to pinch them to keep them from getting to the gut on us. And in the first game, they beat us down court all night because we were lazy and slow getting back.”

The Panthers trailed 42-35 heading into the fourth period, but Austin Johnson, who added 14 points, narrowed that to four by making three free throws 11 seconds in.

Sterrenberg’s three from the left corner with seven minutes left whittled the Conway lead to 42-41. Cabot finally knotted the game on Jack Bridges’ three with 6:20 left, and claimed a 46-44 lead on two more Johnson free throws with 5:17 remaining.

Reserve Seth Bloomberg answered Conway’s tying basket with a rare three, but four consecutive Conway free throws put the ’Cats on top again at 50-49 with 3:09 left.

“Seth is ice,” Bridges said. “He’s a football player and a competitor. He loves to win and he’s going to give me everything he’s got. And Christian Armstrong came in and got some great rebounds. Gary (Clark) did a great job of filling that void in the middle defensively. (Alex) Baker took a charge or two. Jack hit a big three. Everybody stepped up and made key plays that helped us.”

Cabot trailed 52-50 when Sterrenberg went end to end for a lay-up, but Conway beat the Panthers down court on the inbounds pass for a bucket and a 54-52 lead at the 1:55 mark.

Sterrenberg provided more magic by hitting his fifth three of the game that put Cabot on top for good with 1:27 left.

Conway’s Kenyon McNeaill missed a six-footer in the lane and Cabot got possession on a scramble for the rebound. Sterrenberg hit one of two free throws with 29 seconds to extend the lead to 56-54. Sterrenberg then picked off an interior pass at the other end and hit two free throws with 16.8 seconds for a four-point lead. Bridges nailed two more free throws to set the final margin.

“That’s a big win,” Bridges said. “The schedule doesn’t favor us and we’re trying to get into that state tournament. We held serve at home and that’s what you have to do to have a chance.”

Cabot used a 13-0 run late in the first period to turn an 11-5 deficit into an 18-11 advantage after one period. Sterrenberg’s buzzer-beating three-pointer, the result of a long rebound in the corner, gave the Panthers a 27-25 halftime advantage.

“We wanted a game in the twenties at half,” Bridges said. “I thought we played a little fast at times. We can’t run with them, they’re too athletic. But once we got it knotted up, we were able to play more at our tempo.”

Cabot still led 29-27, but after falling behind 34-29, Monroe drew his fourth foul on the offensive end, then was hit with his fifth after drawing a technical arguing the call.

“Miles was as tickled as anybody that we got the win,” Bridges said. “Miles is emotional and emotions got the best of him. He’s going to learn from it. The important thing is we found a way to win.”

And the Panthers found a way to get Conway out of their heads.

“It’s become a good rivalry,” Bridges said. “They’ve had our numbers so it was really good to get that monkey off our backs. The home crowd and student body and the whole community was great for coming out. That made a big difference.”

The Panthers were able to overcome a 32-23 rebounding deficit by making 8 of 16 three-pointers and by committing four fewer turnovers than Conway. Johnson and Sterrenberg scored 43 of the Panthers’ 64 points, with Bridges adding five and Monroe and Baker chipping in four apiece. Sterrenberg added three assists and two steals.

Cabot visited Catholic last night in a game played after Leader deadlines.