Friday, February 17, 2012

SPORTS >> Cabot gets a big road victory at LR Central

Leader sports writer

Cabot kept its state-tournament dreams alive on Tuesday with a critical 61-48 victory over Little Rock Central on the road as the Panthers wind down their 7A Central Conference schedule.

The Panthers (13-7, 4-7) trailed most of the first half before turning things around in the third quarter. Senior Sam Howe led the Panthers with 17 points while Arthur West added 12 points and post player Josiah Wymer finished with 11 points for Cabot. Clayton Vaught rounded out high scorers with eight points.

Central led 17-11 at the end of the first quarter and held on to the lead at halftime 29-28. But Cabot overtook its host in the third quarter and led 44-37 heading into the final eight minutes.

“Maybe we can get a little bit of our spark back. We started out a little sluggish but we picked it up as the game went on.”

The postseason scenario appeared to favor Cabot heading into Friday night’s games with West Memphis ahead of the Panthers for the sixth and final tournament seed by one game. But Cabot’s three remaining games are against Bryant, Van Buren and Russellville, teams which are beatable by the Panthers’ standards, while the Blue Devils still have to face powerhouses Jacksonville and Little Rock Parkview, as well as Mountain Home in the three games left on its 7A/6A East Conference schedule.

Bridges said Thursday he believed winning two games gave the Panthers a good shot at qualifying for state while winning out would almost guarantee a slot in the postseason..

Cabot shot 1 of 5 from the free-throw line in the first half, but it turned things around in the second half by going 14 of 18 in the second half.

“Shooting is not our strength,” Bridges said. “But we do a good job of executing our offense with our high/low game and getting good shots. We played well in the second half, and we made our free throws, okay.”

Howe was a big part of that effort in the fourth quarter as he scored eight of his game-high 17 points in the final eight minutes. The Panthers went 8 of 10 from the stripe in the fourth quarter.

With home games against Bryant and Russellville and a road game with struggling Van Buren in between, Bridges said he hopes the favorable remaining schedule will help his team reach the postseason for a fifth consecutive year. This year’s 7A state tournament will be held at the new Panther Arena.

“We’ve played well at home for the most part,” Bridges said. “Maybe not against Catholic and North Little Rock, but for the most part, we’ve played pretty well here. One thing’s for sure – we’d rather play here than have to play at their place.”

There was no letdown for the Cabot Lady Panthers after their huge 59-43 victory over North Little Rock last week as they handled Little Rock Central 72-59 on Tuesday. Senior post player Laci Boyett led Cabot with 17 points while U of A signee Melissa Wolff added 15 points. Senior forward Sydney Wacker’s late-season surge continued as she poured in 12 points for the Lady Panthers while junior guard Elliot Taylor finished with 11 points. Point guard Jaylin Bridges had eight points and a strong defensive effort against Central’s speedy guards.

Central’s Taylor Lewis proved to be the hardest Lady Tiger for Cabot to defend as she finished with 27 points while teammate Jamie Ruffin had 17 points.

Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple said the team continues to play well as a whole, and has been particularly impressed with Wacker over the past few weeks. The Lady Panthers now lead the 7A Central Conference at 21-5 overall and 10-1 in league play.

“She really has stepped it up,” Ruple said of Wacker. “Everyone has played well – it seems like whatever we need to do in a game, that’s what happens.”

Cabot hosted Bryant last night and will travel to Van Buren on Tuesday.A