Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SPORTS >> Comeback falls short for Cabot’s girls at NLR

Leader sportswriter

The battle for early supremacy in the 7A Central Conference was a physical one as North Little Rock outlasted Cabot’s best shot in the final minute to win 44-39 at Charging Wildcat Arena on Friday.

The Lady Charging Wildcats (14-2, 3-0) built a 36-27 lead by the 5:35 mark of the fourth quarter only to see the Lady Panthers (13-5, 2-1) close to within 41-39 with 38 seconds remaining before a key steal by Xena King took away the ball and a chance to tie or pull ahead for Cabot.

The battle between league unbeaten was further hyped by each team having an elite DivisionaI signee as Cabot senior and future Lady Razorback Melissa Wolff led her team with 11 points and nine rebounds while Southern Methodist University pledge Lexus Williams dominated the post with 14 points, 12 rebounds and a pair of blocks.

“It was outrageous,” North Little Rock coach Daryl Fimple said. “I think both teams didn’t really have a chance to play. It was very physical both ways, and you had to play through it. We missed a ton of free throws – had chances to expand that lead, but Cabot’s kids played so hard.

“It was a battle. It will be a battle again when we go over there. It’s one of those things where you have two good teams with a lot on the line. I just wish (the officials) would have backed off a little bit and let us play.”

Cabot post player Laci Boyett scored on a putback with 59 seconds left to play to cut North Little Rock’s lead to 39-36 and Wolff swished a three pointer with 38 seconds to go to make it 41-39, but the rest of the points from the 5:27 mark on were scored at the foul line for both teams. In all, Cabot went four for five from the free-throw line in the final five minutes while North Little Rock struggled to put it away, going eight of 17 from the stripe.

Cabot junior Elliot Taylor caught the brunt of the physical action when she took an elbow to the nose with 1:54 left to play in the third quarter while involved with a tie-up situation. She went to the locker room to recover and returned to action at the 6:16 mark of the fourth quarter sporting a bandage-packed right nostril.

Despite missing several minutes, Taylor still led the Lady Panthers in rebounds with 11 and added eight points.

Williams was also sidelined briefly after taking a hard foul under the rim from Boyett with 2:11 remaining. Williams went to the bench favoring her right knee but soon returned for the frantic finale.

“We did a good job of getting her the basketball in some instances,” Fimple said. “But we went way too long in the third quarter without letting her touch it. For us to be successful, we’ve got to play off of her.”

The turning point for Cabot came with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter when Ally Van Enk scored on a reverse lay up to make it 23-18. The Lady Panthers then upped the defensive pressure with a full-court press led by Boyett, who forced Sandy Jackson back on a sideline inbound play and stole the ball under the goal for a quick jumper that cut it to 23-20. Boyett then took an assist from Wolff and scored again inside to make it a one-point game with 3:39 left to play in the third quarter.

Cabot sophomore guard Maddie Smith gave the Lady Panthers an early boost when she hit a three-point basket with 4:07 left until the half to cut the Lady Wildcats’ lead to 15-14, but she could not repeat in the final 14 seconds with a chance to tie the game. Kaprecia Slocum pulled down the defensive board for North Little Rock and added a pair of free throws to set the final margin.

Boyett finished with seven points for Cabot while Slocum led the Lady Charging Wildcats with 15 points and six rebounds. Jackson added 11 points for North Little Rock.

Fimple was somewhat annoyed by the picky calls and overall rough play, but was ultimately pleased to take the victory against a Cabot team he was not hesitant to praise afterward.

“They’re a talented bunch – they’ve got a lot of kids that can shoot it,” Fimple said. “So they can stretch you that way, and of course Melissa, we kept our best two defenders on her. Elliot Taylor’s always played well against us. She’s a good kid – scrappy kid. It’s good playing teams that are extremely talented, and I think we both have a chance to make some noise in the state of Arkansas.”