Cabot needed more than forward Kai Davis’ fourth-quarter outburst as Searcy beat the visiting Panthers 55-45 on Tuesday.
Despite Davis’ 13 points in the quarter, the Panthers also needed time and rebounding as Searcy controlled the rebounds and the tempo with a slowed-down effort that helped them overcome the Panthers’ physical play during a rough second half.
Searcy’s Ole Miss signee Jamal Jones fought a double team by Cabot most of the night and still came away with a team-high 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Davis’ hot hand in the last quarter, which included two three-pointers, prevented a Lions runaway.
“Coach Bridges does such a good job with his kids, it’s going to be a war every time we play,” Searcy coach Jim Summers said. “No matter if one team is 20 points better than the other, over the years, every game has been a close, single digit-type game.
“Very physical, the kids played hard. It’s kind of a rivalry back in the old AAAAA.”
It certainly looked like a rivalry in the second half, particularly when Cabot sophomore post Clayton Vaught and Searcy junior forward Jonathan Powell battled for rebounds. Both were called for fouls during jump ball situations and officials had to separate them.
“I thought we did some really good things,” Summers said. “I still think we have to do some things a lot better, but I told the guys that the turning point in the game was when Jonathan Powell got three or four huge rebounds and had to fight with a guy for them and yank them away.”
Powell’s rebounding was part of an overall, 18-7 advantage by Searcy in the second half.
Cabot held Jones to a single basket in the first quarter before the 6-8 guard exploded for nine points in the second period.
He started the quarter on an odd note when teammate Dezmond Stegall set him up with an ally-oop dunk that officials determined had a bit too much mustard on it. Jones was called for a technical foul after pulling on the rim.
“Athletically, we can do some things,” Summers said. “But Cabot, they’re strong, and they’re pretty quick afoot, especially Darin Jones, 22, he can really get to the rim. And Kai’s so long — it was a pretty good matchup out there. We both play kind of a different style, and I thought my guys showed pretty good composure.”
Cabot led 13-10 at the end of the first quarter, but Jones single-handedly outscored the Panthers in the next eight minutes. Davis held his ground with the NCAA Division I prospect with a three-pointer late in the quarter that helped Cabot keep it at 23-20 at halftime.
The Lions slowed the pace dramatically over the final 2:42 of the half when senior point guard Casey Wilmath found a spot near half court and held the ball until the final nine seconds.
“The fans didn’t like it at the end of the first half, but I had four starters with two fouls,” Summers said. “We were up three with three minutes to go, and we basically ran three minutes off the clock. It slowed the game down a lot, but it was what we needed to do.”
Searcy threatened to pull away early in the second half before Darin Jones made a three-point shot with 4:43 left in the third to cut it to 28-25. Jones finished the night with 16 points, including a pair of threes.
“You can’t get comfortable in games, 6A, 7A,” Summers said. “There’s just not that many games where you can look in the paper, and it will be any more than a 12-point win. They’re a war every single night. Everybody can play, so you can’t get comfortable with a lead.”
Davis led all scorers with 23 points for Cabot. For Searcy, Chris Blakely had 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Wilmath finished with 11 points.