SPORTS >> NLR shows depth, grit to win big over Cabot
Leader sports editor
Undefeated North Little Rock had a good reason to be tired Friday, but the Lady Charging Wildcats looked tireless instead as they harassed their way to a 62-44 victory over the Cabot Lady Panthers at Cabot.
Playing its second game in as many nights, North Little Rock used a deep bench and plenty of fullcourt pressure to force Cabot turnovers and turn them into points.
“That’s kind of how we play,” North Little Rock coach Darryl Fimple said. “We were awful at the free-throw line so we had to do something to kind of keep it up tempo and that’s what we’re kind of known for, to try and wear out some people on our traps.”
North Little Rock (24-0, 10-0 7A Central) outscored Cabot 11-3 in the first quarter and made it 13-3 early in the second before Kaki Thomas made a three-pointer for Cabot. The Lady Panthers fought back to within 17-11 on a rebound and putback by Sarah Moore and 19-13 when Amber Rock made a jumper from the left corner with 4:33 left in the half.
But North Little Rock closed out the half with an 11-2 run, beginning with a steal that led to Lexus Williams’ fastbreak layup and ending when Williams hit a basket underneath with 1.5 seconds left to make it 30-15 at halftime.
Cabot committed eight turnovers in the second quarter against North Little Rock’s defense that included plenty of traps and double teams in the backcourt.
“We just can’t simulate that in practice,” Cabot coach Carla Crowder said. “They’re so much quicker than we are and that’s just something we’ve got to work on to get better.”
Cabot has a young team whose only seniors are starters Amber Rock and Sarah Moore. Crowder said the Lady Panthers played into the Lady Wildcats’ hands, especially in the first half.
‘When you dribble they’re going to trap you so you’ve got pass,” Crowder said. “We dribbled a lot the first half. Second half we did a lot better.”
Williams scored inside to give the Lady Wildcats a 41-21 lead with 5:19 left in the third quarter and the Lady Panthers didn’t get within 20 points again until Emilee Turner made a pair of free throws for the final margin with 5.3 seconds left.
“Cabot’s been playing better; coach Crowder has always got them ready,” Fimple said. “They sure as heck shot the basketball better in the second half too. We couldn’t keep them off the foul line.”
Cabot (10-13, 4-6) did put together an 8-2 run early in the third quarter to pull within 53-33. Most of its points came on free throws, including two by Jessie Grunwald when Fimple was called for a technical foul when he complained about a non-call he thought should have been a personal foul on Cabot.
“I thought our kid got hammered to be honest with you,” Fimple said. “I know it was late in the game but I keep telling our kids you’ve got to play hard and be intense. That’s one of them things. It happens.”
North Little Rock kept up the defensive pressure, despite beating Conway the previous night and because Fimple was able to get quality minutes out of most of his roster. The Lady Wildcats used 13 players and 11 scored.
“We definitely do that,” Fimple said of the number of players used, “but especially after back-to-back nights.”
Williams led North Little Rock with 15 points and Cassie Vaughn scored 12. Thomas made two three-pointers and led Cabot with eight points.
“I think we played hard,” Crowder said. “Maybe we were a little intimidated to start with. And at the finish, I think we finished real strong.”