SPORTS >> Cabot boys advance to semis
Leader sports editor
FORT SMITH – Adam Sterrenberg and Taylor Sites must have thought they were looking in the mirror.
The Cabot and Springdale Har-ber senior guards put on a two-man show on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the 7A state tournament at Stubblefield Center at UA-Fort Smith.
The difference, as it turned out, was that the Panthers also had Austin Johnson and Miles Monroe, and that difference was enough to advance Cabot into the semifinals against unbeaten Fayetteville with a 58-51 victory over Her-ber.
“You just have to survive, and at times I thought it looked like we’d been off a week,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges, whose team hadn’t played in eight days. “After that much time off, you don’t know what you’re going to do and I thought at times, we looked raggedy. But we showed some toughness to win the game and that’s what I’m really proud of.”
Sites emerged from a long shooting slump to rain in six threes and score 24 points, while Sterrenberg erupted for 31 points. Sterrenberg scored 23 of the Panthers’ first 35 points.
But it was Johnson’s two critical three-pointers in the final period that put Cabot over the top. His first gave Cabot the lead for good at the 6:10 mark, and his second extended that lead to the lead to 47-41 with three minutes remaining.
“Oh, Austin hit some great big threes for us and I thought Miles played great defensively in trying to take care of the lane,” Bridges said. “Everybody did their jobs.”
Johnson finished with 16 points.
Sites, though, wasn’t through. His sixth three narrowed the gap to 47-44 with 2:32 left, but Sterrenberg hit four free throws and Johnson added two over the next 1:32 to open up a nine-point lead.
Those six straight free throws helped the Panthers overcome a woeful night at the line, where they made only 12 of 20. But Har-ber was even worse, making only 3 of 9.
Cabot won despite 10-of-23 three-point shooting by the Wildcats. Johnson and Sterrenberg combined to make 6 of 12 for the Panthers. Monroe added seven points and nine rebounds.
Sterrenberg showed yet another dimension to his enormous talent on Friday, taking two straight breakaways for jams to open up an 8-2 Cabot lead midway through the first period.
But the Wildcats got three-pointers from James Toomer and Joel Perry to grab their first lead at 15-14 early in the second period.
Monroe put Cabot back on top with a 17-footer and Sterrenberg scored on a fast-break lay-up and a three from the left corner. But Har-ber rallied to take a 25-21 lead on Sites’ first three of the night.
Sterrenberg, though, hit a leaning three at the buzzer and Cabot trailed 25-24 at intermission.
Sites was just getting started and it appeared for a while as though there would be no stopping him.
He drilled three consecutive three-pointers over a three-minute span of the third period and the Wildcats surged to a 34-29 lead.
But Sterrenberg drove the lane for a basket and Monroe drilled a 10-footer along the baseline to cut the lead to one. Sterrenberg then drove from the left wing for a lay-up to stake the Panthers to a 35-34 lead after three quarters.
The Panthers fell behind early in the final period when Sites scored on a lay-up and free throw, then delivered his fifth three of the evening to put Har-ber up 40-39 at the 6:52 mark. Bridges put Gary Clark and Alex Baker on Sites, who scored only three points the rest of the way.
“Jack (Bridges) and Gary did a good job on him,” Bridges said. “Jack got a little tired and (Sites) got a few free ones on him and that’s why I went to Gary. And Gary got in foul trouble and that’s when I went to Baker.
“But that boy got hot and you’ve got to give him credit.”
It will be a tall order today against top-ranked Fayetteville, easy winners of Fort Smith Southside earlier in the evening.
“We just have to go get some rest and see if we can come pull an upset (tonight),” Bridges said. “They’re all ready to give Fayetteville the trophy. But we’re going to see what we can do.”