Saturday, March 03, 2012

SPORTS >> Cabot girls shoot well in opener, semis next

Leader sportswriter

Deadeye shooting from the outside and pilfering hands on defense helped Cabot advance to the semifinals of the 7A state playoffs as the Lady Panthers routed Springdale Har-Ber 71-49 in the quarterfinals at Panther Arena on Thursday.

The Lady Panthers (25-5) forced 28 turnovers against the Lady Wildcats (22-10), and Cabot junior point guard Jaylin Bridges lit up the scoreboard with a game high 19 points that including five three-point baskets.

Bridges scored the first six points for Cabot with back-to-back threes to give the Lady Panthers their first lead of the game mid-way through the first quarter and hit from long distance twice more early in the third quarter to push the lead to 45-27 by the 6:29 mark.

“We were trying to get some steals when they were driving the lane,” Lady Panthers coach Carla Crowder said. “So that gave us an opportunity to get some steals to kind of get us going offensively, and then (Bridges) hit those threes to kind of calm everybody down.

“It’s the first game of state, so you have nerves usually.”

Melissa Wolff scored with a putback at the 2:47 mark of the first quarter to give the Lady Panthers an 11-5 lead, and then the senior and Arkansas signee made a three-point basket with 35 seconds remaining in the opening period for a 16-8 Cabot lead.

Wolff finished just behind Bridges with 18 points, and added nine rebounds and a game high six steals. All but one of Wolff’s takeaways resulted in points for the Lady Panthers, who committed just 10 turnovers of their own.

“We just did our normal routine on defense,” Crowder said. “We played three or four different defenses, and we got in foul trouble early, so we had to stick with zone for a while. We haven’t been in foul trouble all year, and we had several people in foul trouble, so we were trying to protect it.”

Cabot got more looks on offense and made the most of it with 59 percent (24 of 43) from the floor while the Lady Wildcats struggled at times and went 16 of 36 for 44 percent.

Sydney Wacker and Elliot Taylor swapped assists in the early going of the second quarter, as Taylor found Wacker inside for a jumper at the 7:02 mark that gave Cabot a 19-13 lead, and Wacker returned the favor on the next trip down to make it 21-13. Taylor finished with 12 points while Wacker had four points and a pair of steals.

Taylor picked up her third personal foul with 4:14 remaining in the first half and was forced to sit out the remainder of the first half, but senior Micah Odom picked up the slack with a three-point basket at the 3:54 mark to lift the Lady Panthers to a 28-18 lead, and went 3 for 4 from the free-throw line before the break.

Odom finished with 11 points for the Lady Panthers while junior guard Ally Van Enk added five points.

For Har-Ber, Summer Morgan led with 13 points while Caroline Eubanks added 11 points and 12 rebounds. The Lady Wildcats advanced to the quarterfinals by beating West Memphis 55-35 in the opening round a day earlier.

Despite the fact that the game was played in the middle of the afternoon did not deter the Cabot faithful from showing up, as the Cabot stands were three quarters full while the student section went all the way to the top behind the East goal.

“It’s a little of an advantage,” Bridges said of the hometown support. “I hope they come out Saturday, too. They get us going when we can’t get ourselves going, like at the beginning, we started out sluggish, but the cheering and the loudness in the gym helps us get going.”

The Lady Panthers will face Little Rock Hall today in the semifinals to determine who will go to the state finals next weekend in Hot Springs. The Lady Warriors pummeled Fayetteville 60-27 in Wednesday’s first round before advancing Thursday with a 56-48 victory over West No. 2 seed Rogers.