Wednesday, February 09, 2011

SPORTS >> Panthers forecast more practice

Leader sports editor

Cabot coach Jerry Bridges wishes his team had the same accuracy percentage the local weathermen have had this winter.

Bridges was preparing his team for Tuesday night’s game at Little Rock Catholic while nervously keeping one eye on the extended forecast, which was calling for yet more snow that could wipe out what is already a home makeup game with Conway tonight.

“What scares me this year is they’re batting 1.000. I just hope they’re wrong,” Bridges said of the forecasters who have accurately predicted the first three snowfalls of the year and were calling for more Tuesday and today.

Friday’s local basketball schedule was wiped out because of bad weather that, while not severe during the afternoon, got progressively worse into the evening.

Cabot chose to reschedule Friday’s key, 7A-Central Conference matchup with Conway for tonight rather than try to play it the next day. That meant games on consecutive nights this week, unless the predicted weather rolls in and forces the Panthers and Wampus Cats to re-reschedule.

Games were also snowed out Jan. 11 and most schools — like Cabot, which played host to Catholic — made them up on Feb. 1.

Bridges said he discussed the uncertainty of the schedule with his players Sunday.

“Our team, we got together and the main thing I told them was ‘Guys keep your focus and keep your edge,’ ” Bridges said. “We feel like we’re playing pretty good.”

Bridges said the Panthers always try to practice on the day a game is postponed, provided the roads are clear enough a majority of the players can attend.

“We worked hard Friday when school was dismissed; we still had a good workout,” Bridges said. “You don’t want to lose your conditioning, that’s the main thing. That’s our concern.”

Bridges said by this point of the season he can get all he wants out of a 1 ½-hour practice, which often calls for more than a half-hour of shooting and less playbook repetition.

“It’s to not have wasted time in there,” Bridges said.

“This time of year gosh dog it, if they don’t have it by now I’m terrible.”

Bridges figures the focus on shooting accuracy and staying in top condition can give Cabot an edge somewhere down the line. He said Cabot’s fitness might have already paid dividends.

“One thing I’ve liked, I feel like the past few games, knock on wood, we’ve been a lot better in the second half than in the first half,” Bridges said.

Kai Davis and Darin Jones have been Cabot’s scoring leaders with an average 18 and 14 points a game, respectively.

Bridges said that’s something the Panthers can’t hide, but he doesn’t think Cabot would be 4-2 in conference without the efforts of the other players.

“That’s no secret, those two,” Bridges said of Davis and Jones. “We usually go how they go but with those other guys stepping up and contributing we’ve become a better team.”

Bridges noted the increased scoring output from junior J.D. Brunett in recent games and said sophomore Clayton Vaught, a physical presence at 6-2, has been good for between seven to 10 points a night.

He also acknowledged the defensive and rebounding efforts of Logan Spry, a kicker and defensive back in football.

“The things he does on the floor, his defense, his strength,” Bridges said of Spry, a 6-1 senior. “Even though he’s only a guard, he’s a heck of a leaper.”

Should the Panthers wind up playing their second game in as many nights tonight, Bridges said it is a scenario the Panthers may be hoping for in the postseason and they might as well be ready.

“We aspire to be in that state tournament,” Bridges said. “We’re not there but we’re getting close. You may get a draw in that state tournament where you have to play back to back.”