Tuesday, February 01, 2011

SPORTS >> Cyclones fade as Panthers prevail

Leader sports editor

Every now and then a moment takes place to make Cabot coach Jerry Bridges realize he will miss the Panthers’ little old gym.

Friday was one of those times.

Before a heartily supportive student section, Cabot pulled away from Russellville for a 57-41, 7A-Central Conference victory.

It was the kind of night to make a coach nostalgic for his cramped, home floor, even as a sparkling new facility is going up next door on the Cabot High School campus.

“We’ve just got a great student body; it’s fun to play here,” Bridges said. “I’m going to miss this little thing. It’s a fun place.”

While Bridges may miss Cabot’s gym when the new one opens in October, it was misses in general that helped the Panthers pull away from the Cyclones after the game was tied 32-32 late in the third quarter.

Russellville’s three-pointers wouldn’t fall and Cabot made itself at home as the Panthers were in position to grab most of the long rebounds and limit the Cyclones to one-shot possessions while outscoring Russellville 21-9 in the final period.

“They didn’t miss many shots,” Russellville coach Joe Sitkowski said. “They were getting layups, everything else, and we’re not getting many defensive rebounds. When you miss shots on the other end there and they’re getting a lot of rebounds there, that’s part of it.”

“We knew they were going to shoot a lot of threes and what we told them was deep rebounds,” Bridges said. “Let’s check off the shooters too and everybody check off your man because we knew that was part of their game. I thought we did a good job of that.

“When you give them one and done that gives you a chance.”

Corey Harris converted a three-point play to tie it for Russellville with 2:21 left in the third quarter. Eric Turner then fouled Cabot’s Kai Davis, and Davis’ free throws with 1:29 left in the period started a 16-0 run that ended with a free throw by Darin Jones that made it 48-32 with 4:02 left in the game.

“We put a great plan together and our kids did a great job,” Bridges said of the defense, especially against Harris. “I know 2 scored maybe 14 for them but we ran him everywhere because he’s a good shooter and we tried to take that away and I thought we did a decent job.”

Jordan Barrett made a left-handed layup for Russellville to cut it to 48-34 with 3:35 left, but it was the rare successful possession for the Cyclones, who got two offensive rebounds during Cabot’s run, with one ending in an offensive foul and another ending in Wes Heilman’s missed free throw with 4:59 to go.

Russellville missed six three-pointers in the fourth quarter and made four for the game. Cabot made seven three-pointers and J.D. Brunett led the way with three for most of his 11 points but missed most of the fourth quarter with four fouls.

“If our shots go in hopefully we get in a better rhythm,” Sitkowski said. “But there was no rhythm to us on offense in the second half and that kind of hurt us.”

Jones led Cabot (10-9, 4-2) with 16 points, all but five coming on free throws, while Davis went 7 for 8 from the line and scored 13 points and Clayton Vaught added 10.

“We shot our free throws well,” Bridges said. “I thought we executed well but I just thought we played very good defense. I thought it was the biggest key of the game.”

Harris led Russellville with 12 points.