Friday, January 20, 2012

SPORTS >> Cabot gets big win over Tigers

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot boys got a very important win at home Tuesday, beating Little Rock Central 62-51 for their first conference win in four tries.

The Panthers started their season hot, winning its first nine games before entering 7A Central play. They have struggled since, losing their next three games, but might have found a spark with Tuesday’s victory.

Cabot was turnover-prone in the first half, and the Panthers found themselves trailing the Tigers by two at halftime. In the second half, Cabot won the turnovers battle and set the tone for the remainder of the game en route to its first conference win of the season.

The first half turnovers were something Panthers coach Jerry Bridges knew the team had to correct in order to earn its first win in 7A Central play.

“That’s what we told them at the half,” Bridges said. “We told them, ‘guys cut down on the turnovers and just keep moving the ball.’ I thought our shot selection was good.

“The past few games I don’t believe our shot selection has been that good. It was much better tonight.”

Along with better shot selection, Cabot did a better job on the boards, out-rebounding Little Rock Central 26-22. The Panthers scored the first four points of the game, but after that both sides went back and forth for the remainder of the quarter.

At the end of the first quarter, Cabot narrowly led 15-14. The second quarter was when the Panthers committed most of their 12 first half turnovers. The turnovers proved costly as Central took a 27-25 lead going into the half.

In the third quarter, Cabot took better care of the ball and had better shot selection to out-score Central 18-11 in the quarter to take a 43-38 lead heading into the fourth.

“I thought in the second half we never panicked, and we did a good job,” Bridges said. “We took care of the ball, and I thought down the stretch we shot our free throws alright, which has been hurting us.”

The Panthers shot 70 percent from the line, bettering the Tigers’ 59 percent as both teams had nearly 30 free throw attempts for the game. Cabot’s free throw shooting has been an issue as of late, and has contributed to the team’s three-game losing streak.

In the fourth quarter, Cabot led 55-49 with 48 seconds left, forcing Central to foul to stop the clock. The Panthers hit their free throws when it mattered most, and out-scored the Tigers 19-13 in the quarter to set the final margin.

“We needed that man,” Bridges said. “We needed that. It’s like I told them, we have to find our mojo. Our confidence has been down. When you lose games like we lost those first two and North Little Rock just beat us.

“This is a good win for us. Hopefully it’s something we can build on, and try to get back in this race to get a playoff spot. I was proud of our boys. I thought it was a good team effort to be honest, all the way around.”

Cabot did a solid job of distributing the ball throughout the game, primarily through its senior point guard Arthur West, who led the Panthers with a game-high 19 points. West scored 15 of his points in the second half, and added seven assists and three steals to his stats.

Junior Ryan Stafford scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Panthers, while senior Sam Howe scored 10.

Evan James and Kylon Nichols scored 12 points for the Tigers. Keith Hayes had 11.

Cabot (10-3, 1-3) continued conference play Friday at Bryant, and will host Van Buren Tuesday.