Friday, January 13, 2012

SPORTS >> Cabot splits with Catholic, Mount

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s start to the season was unexpected as the Panthers went 9-0 in non conference play, but the 7A-Central Conference is proving to be tougher than expected.

The Panthers started league play with two-straight close losses, the most recent a 55-52 heartbreaker at Little Rock Catholic on Tuesday. It was just Catholic’s second win of the season.

Cabot (9-2, 0-2) shot 50 percent from the free-throw line, going 10 of 20, while the Rockets shot 49 free throws, making 29 of them.

“It’s hard to get in a flow when they’re taking that many trips to the free-throw line,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “It’s hard to wear a team down. We started the fourth quarter one for two, and then they get us on the other end, but I’m pleased with the kids’ effort.”

The Panthers had a chance to tie in the closing seconds when Arthur West found Clayton Vaught open from three-point range. Vaught had a good look, but the shot fell just short. Cabot scrambled for the rebound as the clock wound down, but it went out to Catholic.

“We had to make our free throws,” Bridges said. “If we do that, we win. We’ve played great, we just need to get out of that rut.”

After starting the year 9-0 and winning their own pre-holiday tournament at the new Panther Arena, Cabot is trying to cope with the disappointment of two close losses to start its league campaign. The Panthers opened Central play last Friday with a 45-43 home loss to Conway.

“We’re fragile right now – I’m not going to lie,” Bridges said. “We’ve got to put it behind us. If we had shot just 65 percent from the free-throw line in the first two games, we would be 2-0 in conference right now.

“We’ll get this thing; there’s lots of ball left to be played. They’re a fun group to watch, and they give great effort in the games and in our practices, we just have to learn to deal with these peaks and valleys.”

Vaught led the Panthers with 13 points while West finished with 10. Sophomore post player Josiah Wymer finished with eight points. J.D. Brunett and senior guard Adam Rock each had seven points for Cabot.

Given the tough competition the Panthers faced early on to go unbeaten through the non-conference portion of their schedule, Bridges acknowledged the 7A-Central could be a tougher conference than it is given credit. But with the state tournament coming to Cabot in early March, it will mark a change from recent years where the playoffs have been set in northwest Arkansas, which is welcomed news to the head Panther.

“I think maybe a little bit right now,” Bridges said of the Central conference being underestimated. “But let’s let them come down here. One good thing is the tournament’s here this year, and it makes a difference when you get to rest in your own bed.

“I think what you see out of our conference is not a lot of size, but maybe a little more athleticism and great guard play.”

The Lady Panthers got a 58-36 win at Catholic’s sister school Mount Saint Mary’s. Cabot (14-4, 2-0) enjoyed a size advantage in the game, and did most of its damage offensively with its post players. Melissa Wolff led the way with 17 points while Lacy Boyett added 15.

The Cabot boys and girls played at North Little Rock on Friday and will be at home on Tuesday against Little Rock Central.