Friday, February 25, 2011

SPORTS >> Van Buren stands tall, tops Cabot

Leader sports editor

Too tall? Probably.

Too accurate? Most likely.

Too bad for Cabot? Definitely.

Van Buren got its inside-outside game clicking and beat Cabot 66-44 to take the 7A/6A-Central Conference championship at Panther Pavilion on Tuesday night.

Led by 7-0 center Hooper Vint, an Arkansas Razorbacks recruit, and deadeye outside shooting early, Van Buren raced to a 15-4 lead after one quarter and Cabot was never able to mount a serious threat.

“I’m just so proud of the way the guys are playing as a team,” Van Buren coach Randy Loyd said. “They’re not selfish. They want to win, which is our main goal. That’s what we’ve done and now we’re outright conference champs.”

Vint scored 13 points and was generous with his assists to get the Pointers’ other shooters involved. That was a good thing for Van Buren as Pointers Tyler Spoon and Logan Patterson combined for 30 points, all but three of them coming on three-pointers.

Patterson made six three-pointers and scored 20 points while Spoon made three and scored 10.

“I’m not really surprised when he gets going,” Loyd said of Patterson.

It didn’t help Cabot that Vint was clogging the middle, disrupting Panthers’ outside shooter Kai Davis and pulling down rebounds to limit Cabot to frequent, one-shot possessions.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Bridges said.

“When they’re shooting well you’re really at their mercy. Because if you just try to play Hoop one on one, he’s going to win that battle. He does a great job of involving his teammates, I’m going to tell you that right now.”

Things got out of hand early for the Panthers when Van Buren opened with a 13-0 run. Spoon hit the first of his three-pointers to open the scoring and Patterson closed out the run when he drove for a reverse layup with 1:57 left.

Cabot’s first point came on Clayton Vaught’s free throw and the Panthers cut the deficit to nine three times in the second quarter.

Vaught hit a fadeaway to make it 15-6 at the start of the quarter, Darin Jones made two free throws to pull the Panthers within 17-8 and Kyle Thielemier got a steal and a layup to pull Cabot within 19-10 with 5:01 left in the half.

But Patterson made a three-pointer for the 22-10 lead with 4:45 left in the half, and the Pointers held a lead of 10 or better the rest of the way.

Van Buren’s biggest lead was 54-25 when Deven Goodwin made an inside shot with 6:34 to go, drawing Jones’ fifth foul in the process.

Davis made a three-pointer from the top of the key to save Cabot from the mercy rule, in which the clock runs continuously after a lead of 30 points is established.

“Offensively, when you’ve got 6-11 in there fingertip to fingertip he’s across the lane, we’ve got to shoot well,” Bridges said acknowledging Vint’s wingspan.

Davis’ basket was his only field goal of the game. Vaught led the Panthers with 11 points and Thielemier had 10.

“Kai’s got to score for us but man, they’ve given me everything this year,” Bridges said. “They’ve worked their tail off.”

Van Buren will slide into the 6A classification for the state tournament and will take the top seed next week at Marion. Jacksonville, poised to win the 6A-East, was gunning to be the second seed as it closed out the regular season with Mountain Home on Friday.

Cabot should enter the 7A tournament in Rogers as the fourth seed.

“We’ve still got some season left,” Bridges said. “We’ve got a group with a lot of pride. Hopefully we can go steal one at Russellville and just try to get a little momentum before we head to state.”