Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SPORTS >> Panther defense stifles Bulldogs

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers struggled for a half, but kept its perfect season intact with a dominant second half, beating the visiting Springdale Bulldogs 56-40 Friday at Panther Arena. Cabot didn’t make a single shot from the floor in the first quarter, but good defense kept it close as the Bulldogs took a 10-5 lead into the second period. Sam Howe’s five free throws accounted for all of Cabot’s points in the opening frame.

“Oh, I realized it and they knew I realized it, too,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said of his team’s first-quarter shooting woes. “We weren’t getting into anything. We were out of sync, but we played good defense right from the get go and I was glad to see that. I don’t think we did that against England but we did tonight and that kept us in it.”

The Panthers were without starting point guard Arthur West, and the new lineup struggled early.

“It messed up our rotation,” Bridges said. “We’ve got, really, two starting point guards, but it makes it easier when we can rotate those two guys. I thought Bryan Shrum played a great game after the first quarter.”

The Bulldogs held a 17-10 lead when Cabot made its first run. Shrum hit a three pointer to make it a four-point margin. Howe then got a steal and dished to Adam Rock for a layup, forcing a Springdale timeout with 4:32 left in the half.

The Panthers got another stop defensively and tied the game when Ryan Stafford scored with 3:20 left in the half.

Springdale wasn’t quite ready to give up the advantage and went on a 9-4 run to close the half with a 26-21 lead.

Cabot came back from the break a different team, smothering the Bulldogs defensively and working the ball inside on offense for easy baskets.

Howe, who was 0 for 7 from the floor in the first half, scored 10 points in the third quarter with four straight buckets and two free throws. Cabot also rebounded better in the second half. Springdale held a 13-10 advantage on the boards in the first half, but Cabot ended the game with a 27-23 advantage.

Helping the Panthers’ cause was Springdale starting post player D.J. Evans getting his third and fourth fouls in the first 20 seconds of the third quarter. The Panthers took their first lead of the game at 32-31 on a Rock three pointer with 3:40 left in the third. It was the first three of 12 straight points for Cabot to close the quarter. At the end of the third, Cabot led 40-31 and the margin only grew in the fourth, despite committing seven turnovers in that frame. The Panthers had committed five total in the first three quarters.

Cabot hit 33 percent from the field, hitting just 15 shots in 45 attempts. Springdale was worse, hitting 16 of 52 for 31 percent. The big difference was at the free-throw line. Springale made just six of 11 attempts, while Cabot went 23 of 37 from the line.

Springdale senior Mytaah Crawford scored 17 points to lead the Bulldogs. Howe led all scorers with 20. The win brought Cabot’s record to 7-0 while Springdale fell to 6-3.