Friday, December 16, 2011

SPORTS >> Deeper lineup key to Victory

Leader sportswriter

England did not let its severely limited depth become a factor against a Cabot team still trying to catch its breath from a three-day tournament over the weekend as the Panthers limped to a 61-51 victory over the Lions in a non-conference game at Panther Arena on Tuesday.

The Panthers (7-0) had the benefit of two separate groups to split playing time while the Lions competed with only six players. But England proved to have fresher legs while Cabot looked somewhat sluggish, particularly on defense.

Junior Sam Howe led the way for the Panthers with 18 points while senior post player Justin McMahan added 12 as Cabot capitalized on its slight size advantage over the guard-laden Lions.

“I was worried about that game because of the week before we had,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “They were a hard matchup for us with all their guards. It’s rare that we have an advantage in the post, we just should have gotten the ball to Sam and Justin a little more than what we did.”

Cabot built a 24-14 lead by the 3:54 mark of the second quarter only to watch the Lions go on a 9-2 run to cut the margin to 26-23 at halftime. England held the Panthers’ lead to single digits through most of the third quarter as well as guards Josh Fudge and Lawrence Tatum came up with big shots to help the outmatched Lions keep it close.

“They wouldn’t go away,” Bridges said. “I’ll give this group credit – some of the teams in the past would have lost that one, but this group found a way to win. I was to the point where I told (assistant Lee Wimberley) I didn’t care what happened, I just wanted to get the win and get out of there.”

Howe and McMahan got to work immediately with a pair of baskets each in the first four minutes of the opening quarter before the second group checked into the game at the 3:27 mark of the first quarter. That helped the Panthers to a 10-5 lead, and sophomore post Josiah Wymer scored on a putback of his own missed shot to make it 12-5.

The Lions answered back with a three pointer by Fudge and a putback from Tre Means to cut it to 12-10. Michael Smith and Clayton Vaught answered for Cabot before Tyrik Harris got the last word in the opening period with a jumper that made it 16-12.

Sam Howe’s three-point basket with 4:51 remaining in the third quarter gave the Panthers their first double-digit lead of the game at 35-25, but Harris answered for England with a three, and Tatum hit the back end of a two-shot foul to cut the lead again, this time to 35-29.

Cabot finally took control late in the third quarter with a driving lay-in by Howe to make it 37-29, and McMahan made it 39-29 with a inside basket off a steal and assist from junior point guard Bryan Shrum. Shrum got another steal with 1:23 remaining in the third, this time taking it down for the score himself to give the Panthers a 43-31 lead.

The Lions hung tough but ultimately could not keep pace with a Cabot team that needed every ounce of effort from both of the five-man groups.

“We’re going to keep going with that,” Bridges said. “That other group plays defense just as well as the first group. They may not be capable of scoring like the first group, but at times, they’ve lifted us. The kids are believing in it, so we’re going to keep doing it as long as it’s effective, and we’ll just take it one quarter at a time.”

McMahan added seven rebounds to go along with his 12 points while Wymer also had seven rebounds for the Panthers.

Adam Rock finished with eight points for Cabot while Arthur West had seven points. Fudge led England with 14 points, with 12 points for Tatum and 11 for Harris. The Panthers hosted Springdale last night after The Leader deadlines.