Leader Blues

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

SPORTS >> Turnover costs Panthers in loss

Cabot’s Alex Baker attempts a three-pointer in Friday’s loss.

By TODD TRAUB

Leader sports editor

It was a case of theft, pure and simple.

North Little scratched out a 7A-Central Conference road victory when it beat Cabot 33-29 at Cabot on Friday night. Reggie Bryles gave the Charging Wildcats their final lead with 2:37 left and Brandon Tyler stole an in-bounds pass with fewer than 20 seconds left to help seal the victory.

“We stole one here tonight,” North Little Rock coach Richard Alexander said. “We did.”

Alexander was referring to the old “win at home, steal one on the road,” maxim, but Tyler’s steal after Cabot had pulled within 32-29 gave literal meaning to Alexander’s words.

“We didn’t quit,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “If you get one of those looks to fall it could be a different game but, man, it’s tough.”

North Little Rock took a 27-26 lead on Bryles’ scoop shot with 2:37 left in the game and improved that to 28-26 when Bryles made a free-throw after drawing Darin Jones’ fifth foul.

Jones’ foul-out surprised Cabot because of miscommunication among the Panthers’ bench, the student assistants and the official scorekeeper. Bridges left Jones in the game thinking he had three fouls when he had four.

“I’m going by the board,” Bridges said. “The board had him with three. But the board’s not official.”

Bryles made it 30-26 for North Little Rock when he hit two free throws with 1:18 to go and Bryles made two more free throws for the 32-26 lead with 42.2 seconds left on the clock.

Seth Bloomberg penetrated then kicked the ball out to Alex Baker on Cabot’s next possession and Baker hit an off-balance, falling-down three-pointer to cut it to 29-32 and Cabot called timeout with 31 seconds remaining.

“He was supposed to stay with him and not help,” Alexander said of his defender on the play. “I don’t care if they drove in and made a layup, he was not supposed to leave him and consequently he made the three.”

Bryles got behind the Panthers defense to take the long, in-bounds pass but missed the open layup. Chris Campbell blocked Jacob Ellerbee’s shot out of bounds on Cabot’s possession with 21.6 seconds left, but Tyler picked off the Panthers’ in-bounds pass, drawing a foul from Shane Collins.

North Little Rock (15-9, 7-3) wrapped free throws around two missed three-pointers by Cabot to close out the game.

Bridges said the loss of Jones, the trigger man on many of Cabot’s in-bounds plays, may have led to the final turnover.

“That’s just an unfortunate time to get a turnover with the amount of time left in the game,” Bridges said.

Cabot (9-12, 3-7) led 6-3 early but North Little Rock went in front when Campbell stole a pass leading to Mike Malvin’s jumper that made it 7-6, and after another turnover Campbell slammed in a one-handed dunk over Christian Armstrong to make it 9-6.

Cabot, whose tallest player is 6-3, was against a taller North Little Rock front line that included Malvin, 6-5. But the Panthers packed the middle and dictated a deliberate pace to stay within seven, though they didn’t regain the lead until Baker made a leaping, one-handed shot after Armstrong’s offensive rebound to make it 25-24 with 6:05 left in the game.

Baker made a free throw with 4:42 remaining for the 26-24 lead. Then Campbell made a free throw for North Little Rock after a Kai Davis foul, and after a Cabot miss Bryles hit his go-ahead shot.