Monday, January 09, 2012

SPORTS >> Pressure lifts Cabot to win

Leader sportswriter

Pressure and patience were the key ingredients in Cabot’s 52-32 victory over Greene County Tech at Panther Arena on Tuesday.

The Panthers (9-0) finished their non conference schedule with a perfect record and made a statement to 7A-Central competitors with a stout defensive performance that kept the visiting Golden Eagles on the run to try and avoid the pressure. Offensively, Cabot worked the ball thoroughly and waited for the perfect shot, resulting in good scoring nights for several Panther players, including senior guard Sam Howe, who had game-leading 13 points.

“I thought in the second half, we played much better,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “That’s why we put this game here with our break like it was to try and get this one before we start off for real Friday. To be 9-0, I don’t know who we’ve played, but they work hard for us every day.”

Tech kept things close in the first half with a series of well-timed three-point baskets, but when the outside dried up for the Eagles in the second half, the hard-nosed play of scrappy senior guard Andrew Ferguson was all they seemed to have left for Cabot. Ferguson led the Eagles with 12 points.

Cabot held the ball nearly two minutes on some possessions in the second half, which opened up lanes inside for dumps into the post. Sophomore Josiah Wymer was the biggest beneficiary for the Panthers, scoring eight of his 10 points in the second half.

“One thing we do well is executing our high-low,” Bridges said. “First half, I thought we did a poor job of hitting our big men on the block. They were open, and we weren’t getting it to them. I looked up there in the second half. We were up 20, and I didn’t know where it came from.”

Arthur West added 10 points for Cabot, though two of those points were disputed most of the first half. West stole the ball from Tony Valdez in the closing seconds of the first quarter and made his way to the basket for a lay-in at the buzzer. One official called for the basket and a foul while another referee waved off the shot.

That was the start of a five-minute debate at the scorers table, which resulted in the basket not being counted to leave the score at 6-4. The basket was eventually counted, however, as the halftime margin of 17-14 mysteriously went to 19-14 just before the start of the third quarter.

Wymer’s only first-half points came with 2:04 remaining until the break with an assist from West to give the Panthers a 15-9 lead. He scored again inside at the 2:39 mark of the third quarter to make it 32-20 in favor of Cabot. He then scored on a put back following a missed free throw by Clayton Vaught for a 35-21 Cabot lead.

“We keep telling him, ‘Josiah, if you catch the ball down on the block, make them stop you,’” Bridges said. “As big as he is, when he gets that momentum going one direction, you can’t stop the kid, but man, he’s a good lift for us. We feel like we’ve got 10 guys that we can play.”
Ferguson never quit battling for Tech, though sometimes it appeared as if he was in the fight alone.

He converted a basket and free throw with 4:24 left to play in the first half to cut Cabot’s lead to 28-20, only to watch as the Panthers picked up a turnover and scored on a lay up by Howe to begin a 7-1 run that put Cabot at a comfortable 35-23 margin heading into the final period.
Junior guard Kyle Thielemier showed little signs of rust in his first game back from injury as he added eight points for the Panthers.

“I don’t know; we didn’t expect this – they work hard,” Bridges said of his team’s early success. “There’s a lot of basketball left, but I never thought we would be 9-0 now. They’re very unselfish. I think we’ve had four or five different leading scorers in every game.

What I like about tonight’s win is, we can shoot the ball a lot better than what we did tonight.”
The Panthers began league play at home against Conway last night after Leader deadlines. Look for details of that game in Wednesday’s Leader.