Wednesday, January 02, 2008

SPORTS >>Hot-shot Panthers crowned champs

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys are heating up heading into conference play. That heating process hit a boiling point in the first half of Saturday’s championship game of the Lendel Thomas Classic at Harrison. The Panthers beat the host team 67-59 to improve to 11-3 on the season after draining eight three pointers in the first half.

“We were hot,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “That’s all you can say about that. We were very hot and it wasn’t just one guy hitting them all.”

Adam Sterrenberg hit three in the first half. Derek Clarkson and Austin Johnson drilled two apiece and Miles Monroe got one to fall as the Panthers built a 39-27 lead by halftime.

The lead became a lot less comfortable late in the game, as the Goblins cut the margin to four points in the fourth quarter. The Panthers held on though, and Bridges was very glad to see that.

“Any time you play at Harrison it’s tough,” Bridges said. “In the championship game of their own tournament is even tougher. I was proud of my boys though. They kept their composure and played through all that.”

While the outside shooting drew all the attention, Bridges is most excited about how his team is playing together.

“Everybody pitched in,” Bridges said. “The whole tournament was a great team effort. We’re becoming a team and that’s what I’m really proud of.”

The even wasn’t without it’s individual standouts though. Sterrenberg averaged over 20 points per game in the tournament, and senior post player Sam Bates was a monster on the glass. He pulled down 12 rebounds in the championship game, an effort that followed 13 boards in a semifinal win over Bentonville.

“Sam Bates’ rebounding has just been incredible,” Bridges said. “That doesn’t get recognized like it should. He bangs and battles in there and does a great job for us.”

Cabot will open league play at home Friday against Conway. The head Panthers likes how his team is playing heading into 7A-Central competition.

“We’re growing,” Bridges said. “I think 11-3 in non-conference games is a pretty good start, but we’ve got 14 tough games ahead of us and these are the ones that really count. That’s 14 straight games that we’re just going to take one at a time.”

Sterrenberg led all scorers with 25 points in the championship game. Johnson added 15 and Monroe 14.

The Lady Panthers also advanced to the championship game, but fell 63-56 to Huntsville. Leah Watts led the Cabot ladies in the loss with 22 points.

In the semifinals, Lauren Walker led the Lady Panthers with 22 points in a 62-54 win over Bentonville. Watts scored 18 in that game and Shelby Ashcraft added 13.

The 2-1 record at Harrison leaves Cabot 8-5 heading into Friday’s contest against Conway.