Tuesday, December 06, 2011

SPORTS >> Cabot girls dominate in opening new facility

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers, having the honor of playing the first-ever game on Cabot’s new Panther Arena floor, opened it with a dominant performance Monday. The Lady Panthers beat Harding Academy 66-46 in the opening round of the Cabot Pre-Holiday Classic.

Though not filled to capacity, the arena was loud and the energy level was high.

Harding Academy guard Anna Lowery hit a three pointer late in the opening quarter to cut a nine-point margin to six, but Cabot began the second quarter with a big run that opened up the game.

“We really did start out with a lot of energy,” Cabot coach Carla Crowder said. “They were just so excited to get out here and finally play in this new facility. They really played hard.”

The Lady Panthers’ defense did the damage, harassing the Lady Wildcats into 26 turnovers. Cabot also dominated on the boards, finishing with a rebounding advantage of 33-20.

Reserve players sparked the second-quarter run.

Cabot went on an 11-2 run to start the second quarter. Of the 19 total points scored in the frame, 13 were by players coming off the bench.

Harding Academy didn’t score a basket from the field in the second quarter until 1:32 showing on the clock. That was a transition bucket by freshman point guard Riley Rose, who Crowder was impressed with.

“She was very good,” Crowder said. “She’s going to be an extremely good player.”

Crowder was also pleased with the play of reserve guard Maddie Smith, who scored 10 points off the bench in the first half to help Cabot pull away.

“She did a really good job,” Crowder said.

After going into halftime up 34-18, it appeared that Cabot might invoke the sportsmanship rule by the fourth quarter. The Lady Panthers’ lead reached 28 late in the frame at 51-23, but the lead never reached 30 points.

Harding Academy got hot from the outside in the final frame, hitting three of four three-point attempts to help close the final gap to 20.

Scoring was very balanced for both teams. Reserves led the Lady Panthers. Micah Odom led all scorers with 11 while Smith finished with 10. Elliot Taylor and Sydney Wacker finished with nine points apiece for Cabot. Melissa Wolff led Cabot with seven rebounds, while Wacker and Alexandra VanEnk each grabbed six rebounds.

All five of Harding Academy’s starters scored between six and eight points. Rose led the Lady Wildcats in several categories. She had a team-high, eight points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Kristen Lester also had six rebounds for HA.

Cabot resumes tournament play in the semifinal round at 7 p.m. Friday against Searcy, which advanced in the winners’ bracket after Shiloh Christian forfeited due to inclement weather.

Other first-round games include defending 2A state champion England facing Jessieville at 6 p.m. tonight. Nettleton battled defending class 5A state champion Watson Chapel last night. The winner of those two games meet at 7 p.m. Thursday.