Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SPORTS >> Cabot gets busy early, rips Beebe

Cabot junior post Charles Mantione tries to drive against a Beebe defender.  

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s Alex Baker most likely could have scored as much as he wanted, but his 11 points in the first quarter were enough to establish a lead that only grew as the Panthers routed host Beebe 57-29 at Badger Arena on Friday.

Baker, Cabot’s sharp-shooting, 5-10 senior guard, scored a final basket in the last two minutes of the second quarter to bring his total to 13 and enjoyed the second half of the blowout from the bench.

The substitutes continued to punish the Badgers, triggering the mercy rule in the fourth quarter.

“One thing we wanted to do was come out of the gates quick,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “On the road, anything can happen. We got up early and kept them out of it. It also gave us a chance to play a lot of people and take a look at some people.”

Junior Darin Jones kept the Panthers rolling in the third quarter with a pair of baskets that framed a Seth Bloomberg three-pointer to give Cabot a 36-14 lead with 4:53 left in the period.

That was part of the Panthers’ 16-3, third-quarter run that ended when Zach May sank a three-pointer to make it 48-19 with 1:13 left. A basket by Patrick Martin and technical foul free throws by Kai Davis gave Cabot the points needed to start the clock running continuously in the fourth quarter.

“We’re learning our identity as a team,” Bridges said. “Everyone is learning who the main scorers are, and everyone is accepting their role. We have to play well and execute at a high level to compensate for our lack of height.”

Scot Gowen gave the Badgers an early physical presence inside with three hard-fought baskets in the first quarter. Caleb Davidson also helped Beebe keep pace when he scored to cut Cabot’s early lead to 7-6 with the 3:53 left in the first quarter, but the game was never within one score again.

The Panthers picked up their defensive intensity and fullcourt press midway through the quarter to hold the Badgers scoreless for over three minutes until Devonte Young made a shot with 20 seconds left cut Cabot’s lead to 13-8.

But Logan Spry had the last word for the Panthers with a buzzer-beater that put the margin back to eight.

In all, six Panthers scored in the first half and four more found the goal in the second, and Cabot’s defense held Beebe to only 16 points over the final two quarters.

“We feel like we have a lot of depth,” Bridges said. “There’s not much difference in some of them. Of course, we know the two that we have to have out there all the time, but everyone is getting more experienced and getting better.”

Charles Mantione came off the bench and scored 11 points for Cabot while Bloomberg and senior John Ellerbee scored six each, all off three-pointers.

Gowen led Beebe with nine points, with five each for Young and May.

The Panthers (5-3) will pay their annual visit to Fort Smith after Christmas to take part in the Coke Classic Tournament on Dec. 28-30. They will play Subiaco Academy in the Monday game.

With early non-conference opponents like Jacksonville and North Pulaski, and tournament play at Central Arkansas Christian and Fort Smith, Bridges hopes his young team will be seasoned for 7A-Central Conference play.

“We’ve played a good schedule,” Bridges said. “If we’re not ready by the time we open on Jan. 8, we’ll never be ready. It doesn’t get any easier when you jump off into 7A-Central Conference play, so you better be ready.”