Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers rolling

Leader sports editor

Cabot coach Carla Crowder still thinks about Bryant once in awhile, but nowadays it’s only when the Lady Hornets pop up on the Lady Panthers’ schedule.

Crowder and Cabot beat Crowder’s former team 48-34 in a 7A-Central Conference game at Cabot on Friday night.

For Crowder, in her eighth season at Cabot since leaving Bryant, what was once old home week has turned into just another game, no more important than the last one or the next one.

“Every conference game is tough,” Crowder said, invoking the old “one game a time” axiom when asked about her ties to Bryant. “I still know a lot of people.”

Crowder’s Bryant program posted one of the longest known winning streaks in Arkansas girls high school basketball when the Lady Hornets won 62 from 1987-90. Fort Smith Southside won 56 from 1985-87.

Nationally ranked North Little Rock, which has beatenCabot twice — once narrowly in conference play — is closing in on both teams with 47 victories after Friday and plays Bryant next.

But Crowder’s only concern these days is Cabot (12-5, 3-1), and she was pleased with Tuesday’s result.

“We came out playing hard, we wanted that good first quarter,” Crowder said.

Cabot got off to a quick start to lead 16-6 after the first quarter and — when Melissa Wolff came to a jump stop and hit a layup with 1.8 seconds left — the Lady Panthers led 27-15 at halftime.

“We were just trying to keep focus and make sure we have a real good third quarter and didn’t let up,” Crowder said.

Bryant cut it to 29-17 to start the third quarter, but Wolff made a layup and Kaki Thomas and Elliot Taylor hit three-pointers to run the lead to 37-19.

London Abernathy broke the spell for Bryant when she hit a three-pointer from the right baseline with 2:58 left in the third quarter and Kiara Moore and McKenzie Adams combined for four free throws to cut the lead to 37-26 with 1:37 to go.

Thomas responded with a layup for Cabot and Adams answered with two free throws to pull Bryant within 39-28 with 32.8 seconds left in the quarter.

But the 11-point margin was as close as the Lady Hornets would get. Moore’s free throw with 2:33 to go in the game pulled Bryant (14-3, 1-3) within 42-31, but a layup by Cabot’s Jaylin Bridges and a basket and two free throws by Sydney Wacker helped Cabot keep its double-digit lead.

Bryant managed only Abernathy’s three-pointer down the stretch.

“I don’t think we were ready to execute,” Bryant coach Blake Condley said after his team, which won its first 14, dropped its third straight. “I think we got out-hustled to a lot of balls. I thought we didn’t help each other on defense. I thought we weren’t patient on offense.”

More than anything, Crowder was encouraged by Cabot’s ability to hold off Bryant in the second half after building its 12-point halftime lead.

“We’ve been really starting well, we just haven’t been finishing well sometimes,” Crowder said. “So the kids worked real hard and I’m real proud of them and we did a real good job on the boards.”

Taylor led all scorers with 15 points, Thomas scored 13 and Wolff added 10.

“I think we all played, as a team, just played really well,” Crowder said. “Kaki shot extremely well.”

Adams scored 11 points to lead Bryant and Moore had 10.

“We’ve just got to focus on just our bench and everybody playing, more people,” Crowder said. “Just focus on being a total team and trying to rebound a little better and play better defense.”