Tuesday, December 06, 2011

SPORTS >> Panthers open arena with win

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers opened their new arena in style, smothering and running Paragould ragged en route to a 68-51 victory Monday in the first round of the first-ever Cabot Pre-Holiday Tournament.

The Rams hung tough for a quarter, largely because they dominated at rebounding and scored several second-chance baskets.

Paragould out-rebounded Cabot 9-2 in the first quarter as it built a 14-7 lead with 1:32 left in the opening frame. From that point until halftime, Cabot outscored the Rams 29-7.

It started with a furious 7-0 run to end the first period. Two layups by Arthur West and a three pointer by Clayton Vaught were all assisted by Michael Smith passes as Cabot tied the score at 14.

Once the Panthers committed to rebounding in the second quarter, their relentless defensive pressure wore down the visiting Rams.

“Really, rebounding is something we’ve done pretty well,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “We didn’t do it well in the first quarter tonight, but we got back to it and kept playing hard. After a while I think we started to wear them down.”

Cabot’s depth did begin to wear on the Rams. Paragould played just seven guys a significant amount of time, while Cabot had eight different players score in the second quarter alone. Paragould managed just one field goal in the second period and just seven points. Cabot pulled out to a 36-21 advantage by halftime and the Rams never got within 10 points the rest of the game.

Paragould took its last serious run at the beginning of the third quarter. The Rams got the margin down to 10 at 38-28, but post player Josiah Wymer came off the bench to spark another Cabot run that put the Panthers back in control for good.

Wymer scored six points in the third quarter and grabbed four rebounds. The lead was back to 15 at 53-38 by the end of the third, and only got bigger early in the fourth.

Cabot’s lead hit 20 points twice. The first time at 61-41 halfway through the final quarter. Both teams substituted freely from that point. Paragould hit a three pointer in the waning seconds to set the 17-point final margin.

Two of Cabot’s three leading scorers came off the bench.

“That’s good,” Bridges said. “I said at the beginning of the year that you’re probably going to see eight different guys lead us in scoring at some point this year. We’ve had four games now and three different leading scorers.”

Wymer led all scorers in Monday’s game, finishing with 15 points. West had 14 while Vaught finished with 11.

Chase Garner led Paragould with 10 points, though he only scored two baskets. Bryan Shrum came off the bench to deliver four assists for Cabot.

After the early rebounding struggles, Cabot closed that gap as each team finished with 26 rebounds.

The win lifts the Panthers to 3-0 on the season. They also won a nailbiter on the road last Friday, beating Pine Bluff 52-51.

Cabot will play the semifinal round of the winners’ bracket at 8:30 p.m. Friday against Searcy The Lions advanced in the winners’ bracket when Shiloh Christian had to forfeit due to inclement weather in northwest Arkansas.

Wynne or Watson Chapel in will play at 8:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of tonight’s matchup between Benton and England.