Leader Blues

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

SPORTS>>Sterrenberg outburst a reminder of why I got into this business

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

You’ve probably heard by now about Adam Sterrenberg’s remarkable one-man show last Friday night at Panther Pavilion. You’ve probably heard he scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to almost single-handedly help salvage Cabot’s season in a come-from-behind win over Russellville.

The story is only half true. Sterrenberg, the Arkansas State signee and all-around scorer, actually compiled those 22 points over a span of four minutes and 55 seconds. The final 17 of those came in the last two minutes and 20 seconds when the Panthers were rallying from a seven-point deficit for a critical home victory.

If you weren’t there — and with a raucous, near-capacity crowd on hand, there’s a good chance you were — you have no idea just how dynamic a performance Sterrenberg turned in. Crunching the numbers doesn’t do it justice, mainly because they’re so otherworldy as to be cartoon-like.

Twenty-two points over a five-minute span translates to 140 points in a full 32-minute game. Think that’s ridiculous? Try extrapolating 17 points in two minutes and 20 seconds into an entire game. That’ll net you 246 points.

Those numbers are too absurd to wrap your mind around so let’s do it this way. Let’s itemize Sterrenberg’s final four minutes and 55 seconds on Friday night. Cabot trailed 42-33 when Sterrenberg delivered an assist to Austin Johnson for a three-pointer to whittle the lead to six at the 5:45 mark. The rest, aside from a pair of Johnson free throws, was all Sterrenberg.

4:55 Pull-up three from the left of the circle (39-42 Russellville).

3:45 Baseline drive, reverse lay-up (41-47) … This came 10 seconds after Russellville’s breakaway basket that pushed the lead to eight and threatened to salt it away.

2:40 Lane drive, missed lay-up that went around and came out … his only miss during his run.

2:20 Answers two A.J. Broadnax free throws with a step-back three (45-49).

1:59 Pull-up three from left of the key (48-49).

1:42 Answers two Broadnax free throws with two of his own (50-51).

1:30 Pull-up three to give Cabot first lead since first period (53-52).

1:17 Steal and two free throws (55-52).

:46 Two free throws (57-54).

:02 Lay-up at buzzer (60-54).

Keep in mind that Sterrenberg had struggled all night from the field, struggled even to get any good looks with Broadnax often hounding him all over the court. And it wasn’t like any of his four threes in the final period were uncontested. None of them were, in fact.

“Our kids came up to me and said, ‘What do we do, Coach?’” Russellville head coach Joe Sitkowski said afterward. “What can you do? We guarded him.”

The Cyclones are blessed with an outstanding point guard in Broadnax. He allowed them to control every possession, making Russellville’s six- and eight-point leads throughout the second half seem more like 12- and 14-point cushions. Cabot needed a super-human performance. Sterrenberg provided it.

In my seven years of covering high school sports, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness some outings that have left me smiling and shaking my head, capable of saying nothing more than ‘Wow.’ I watched Abundant Life’s Dane Lottner light up Atkins in the final quarter of a regional game last February, saw Cabot’s Leah Watts rain down five straight threes over five-and-a-half minutes against Bentonville last March in the state tournament.

Less than two hours before Sterrenberg torched Russellville on Friday, Jenna Bailey had the crowd oohing and aahing when she re-entered the game late against the Lady Cyclones to squelch a comeback attempt. That, she did, by hitting three threes and a lay-up in the span of a minute and 20 seconds. (Memo: Check circumference of Panther Pavilion rims).

You see the Lebron Jameses and the Kobe Bryants of the world enter that rarefied realm once or twice a season, but it doesn’t have the same effect as watching one of your local players do it in person.

There have been nights in my career as a sportswriter when I’ve watched teams rack up twice as many turnovers as baskets, when out-of-position, pointless fouling prolonged an already endless game. There are nights, in other words, when I’ve questioned my career choice.

Then there are the nights like last Friday when I realize that, hey, this beats working.