Tuesday, February 15, 2011

SPORTS >> Charging Wildcats edge Panthers

Leader sports editor

Cabot passed the gut-check test; it just didn’t get the final score it wanted.

North Little Rock held off Cabot for a 61-56, 7A-Central Conference victory in a Monday night makeup game at North Little Rock.

The Panthers, in the midst of playing three games in four nights, cut it to 52-50 on free throws by Kai Davis with 3:09 left, but the Charging Wildcats scored the next 10 points to pull away with the victory.

Cabot scored a dramatic victory over Conway in a home makeup game Saturday and was set to play Little Rock Central in a regularly scheduled game at Cabot on Tuesday night. Monday’s game was, hopefully, the last of the weather related makeups, but Panthers coach Jerry Bridges didn’t blame the loss on fatigue.

“We ain’t leg weary,” Bridges said. “If you see what I do to them in the fall,we’re in better shape than anybody and that’s the honest to God truth, okay?”

Bridges said the Panthers were the victims of some untimely turnovers, lost rebounds and missed shots down the stretch.

“We had two good open looks on threes from good shooters,” Bridges said.

“If we make those maybe it’s different. Man, we’ve got to rebound better. We didn’t rebound good and that’s probably what hurt us more than anything tonight.”

Davis missed a three-pointer that would have cut it to 56-53 and North Little Rock got the rebound. Kyle Thielemier missed from the left corner leading to a foul by J.D. Brunett, and the Charging Wildcats’ Cody Ware made both free throws for the 58-50 lead with 1:37 to go.

Clayton Vaught missed inside for Cabot, then fouled Tyrees Hollister, who capped North Little Rock’s run with free throws for the 60-50 lead with 1:08 to go.

The Panthers weren’t quite finished, however.

Brunett hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to cut it to 60-53 and Cabot called timeout with 49.7 seconds left. After a North Little Rock turnover, Vaught made another three-pointer from the right elbow to cut it to 61-56, and Cabot called another timeout with 28.6 seconds left.

“They’ve got great shooters; you just can’t give them a break anywhere,” North Little Rock coach Richard Alexander said. “I thought in the end we picked up the defensive intensity and I think that helped us.”

But with the five-point deficit and the clock against them, Cabot chose not to foul and took the hard-fought loss.

North Little Rock (14-7, 7-3) broke a tie for third in the 7A-Central with Cabot (12-11, 7-4).

“We’re in there, we just need to take care of our business at home,” Alexander said.

Hollister led a balanced North Little Rock attack with 14 points. Ware scored 12 and Gary Vines and Chris Campbell had 10 apiece.

Davis made four three-pointers and led Cabot with 18 points and Darin Jones scored 14.

“Going into this stretch we said ‘Man, if we can get one of these three,’ and heck, we got that one Saturday,” Bridges said of the Panthers’ state tournament chances. “I really think that’s put us in it. Now we’re trying to play for a seed.”

North Little Rock built a 39-26 lead midway through the third quarter and was ahead 44-35 by the end of the period. Cabot fought back to within 49-46 on a driving layup by Jones, and Davis pulled the Panthers within 52-50 with his free throws following a Ware foul.