Friday, February 11, 2011

SPORTS>>Catholic gets shots in stretch, tips Cabot

Leader sports editor

While the temperature plummeted outside Little Rock Catholic’s gym, so did the shooting percentages inside.

But it was Catholic that scored just enough to stay a step ahead of Cabot and take a 48-41 7A-Central Conference victory Tuesday night.

“I thought our shot selection was bad,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “We’re better when we’re moving that ball around and everybody is touching it a couple times before we throw one up there.”

On the eve of the state’s biggest snowstorm of the year, the teams didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard as they headed into what looked to be an extended, weather-related break. By the end of the evening, Cabot coach Jerry Bridges was already certain the Panthers would not be able to make up their game with Conway — already snowed out once — on Wednesday night.

Bridges had his fingers crossed Cabot might be able to play its scheduled game with North Little Rock on Friday or possibly today. But the Panthers wound up rescheduling Conway for tonight and North Little Rock for Monday.

So Cabot went into its unscheduled time off with a bitter taste after Catholic beat back a challenge in which the Panthers cut it to 43-38 on Darin Jones’ short, one-handed jumper with 1:48 left.

The Rockets, who were 8 of 15 on free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter, made what they needed to hold off the Panthers. Stuart Johnson hit a pair to set the final margin with 1:07 left after Cabot’s Clayton Vaught sank a three-pointer that cut it to 46-41 with 1:14 remaining.

“It’s up to the kids to concentrate more and put them in,” said Catholic coach Tim Ezzi after the Rockets avenged a loss, also postponed by snow, at Cabot earlier this month.

Cabot made 5 of 15 field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers were also plagued by a few mental blunders in the final period.

With Catholic leading 44-38 with 1:34 left, J.D Brunett threw a pass that got away from Jones for a turnover. The ball rolled out of bounds at Bridges’ feet and he bounced it hard on the floor a few times in frustration before handing it to the referee.

With 1:07 to go, Brunett fouled Johnson, responding more to some vocal Cabot fans than to Bridges, who didn’t appear to welcome the extra coaching and told Brunett not to worry about the premature foul.

“We had three straight possessions where we might have turned it over twice, correct me if I’m wrong,” Bridges said.

“And then we tried to do a crazy shot instead of just shooting it.”

Johnson then made his free throws to complete the scoring as Cabot had two failed possessions down the stretch.

“They were cold,” Ezzi said of Cabot’s shooters. “They’re a good shooting team. They made 10 of 15 at their place.”

Jones led Cabot (11-10, 5-3) with 15 points and Kai Davis scored 10. Brad Kierman scored 14 points to lead Catholic (9-6, 4-5) and Evan James added 10.

“We’ve just got to regroup from here,” Bridges said counting the number of home versus road games left.

“Our schedule doesn’t favor us, we know that right now. It balances out a little bit. I guess it’s three and four and then it becomes three and three after Friday. Hopefully. Okay? Hopefully.”

Cabot led 23-17 late in the second quarter but gave up a bank shot to Carson Case and, after a missed three-pointer by the Panthers, Johnson crashed in to grab a rebound and score just before the buzzer to make it 23-21 Cabot at halftime.

The points became part of a 10-0 Catholic run that spanned the second and third quarters and left the Rockets leading 27-23. The Panthers never regained the lead.

Cabot scored just four points in the third quarter, but Catholic was almost as flat at the free-throw line as the Rockets went 18 for 28 overall.