Saturday, November 17, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot’s defense stymies Chapel

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s biggest lead was six points, and that was just two minutes into the game. But Watson Chapel led for just a few seconds in the third quarter and couldn’t otherwise break the Lady Panthers’ tenuous control of the game. The result was a hard-fought 40-36 victory for the Cabot ladies Wednesday in the semifinals of the Heavenly Hoops Classic at Mount St. Mary’s Academy.

Sophomore Alyssa Hamilton paced Cabot with 16 points, including 14 in the second half. She also had 11 rebounds for her first career double-double.

“She doesn’t take bad shots and she runs the floor well,” Cabot assis tant coach Charles Ruple said. “Most of her shots were open layups that me and you could make. The difference is she can get there to take those shots. She knows the offense well and she got where she needed to be to help us out tonight.”

The key stretch of the game came after Watson Chapel cut the margin to 34-33 with 2:55 remaining in the game.

The two teams traded a few fruitless possessions before Cabot scored four points in rapid succession with just more than a minute remaining.

Cabot point guard Jaylin Bridges air balled a three-point attempt, but teammate Ally Van Enk chased the ball down before it went out of bounds. With one foot in bounds and the other in the air, Van Enk made a no-look pass to Hamilton under the basket for an open layup and a 36-33 lead.

Hamilton then made a steal on the baseline at the other end of the floor, made an outlet pass to Van Enk. Van Enk threw to Ryan Wilson, who hit Hamilton trailing the play for another layup that gave Cabot a 38-33 lead with 1:08 left to play.

It proved a huge series because Chapel scored three points on its next possession to make it 38-36 with 57 seconds remaining, but failed to score the rest of the way.

“I thought Ally made the difference with that rebound and assist she made,” Ruple said. “Not only did she chase down that rebound, she was able to make a great pass. That was great presence of mind.”

Hamilton wasn’t the only Lady Panther that struggled to score in the first half. Cabot bolted out to a quick 8-2 lead against Chapel’s man pressure. The Lady Wildcats switched to a zone defense in the second quarter and stopped the Lady Panthers in their tracks.

Cabot led 15-11 at the end of the first quarter, but managed just one free throw and no field goals in the second period. Cabot had just eight shot attempts in the second, missing them all.

The defense stayed strong and allowed Chapel just one field goal, a three pointer by reserve guard Megan Moore. Despite the offensive struggles, Cabot’s defense preserved a 16-15 lead at intermission.

“She made some calculated substitutions that really gave us trouble in the second quarter,” Ruple said of Watson Chapel coach Leslie Henderson. “She pulled out a guard and put a 6-1 post player in there along with her 6-foot starter. She went big and she went zone and they did a nice job with it.”

Cabot made adjustments at halftime and the teams battled the rest of the way. Wilson, a sophomore guard, played in place of senior Abbey Allgood, partially due to Allgood’s foul trouble, but also in an attempt to counter Chapel’s size with quickness.

“Ryan played really well,” Ruple said. “She defended well and she came through with a couple of good passes in the fourth quarter that ended up being big layups when we needed it.”

Cabot maintained a two-to-five-point lead for most of the second half, until 6-footer Kamera Bozeman made it 34-33 with 2:55 remaining, setting up Cabot’s quick four points that sealed the game.

The Lady Panthers will face North Little Rock at 2:30 p.m. today in the tournament championship game. The Charging Lady Wildcats beat defending class 4A champion Star City 45-38 in their semifinal game.