Saturday, November 10, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers control last two quarters

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys basketball team took the floor against live competition for the first time Thursday, taking on Lake Hamilton in the Arkansas Activities Association benefit game at Panther Arena. The format was to reset the scoreboard after each quarter, but Cabot got the best of the game as a whole.

“There were a lot more positives than negatives,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said of his team’s play. “We’d like to score 80 points a game but that’s not going to be our nature this year. To be successful we’re going to have to do a good job of executing and getting the ball inside for good shots. We left a lot of points out there, missed some easy baskets, but I was pleased with how they executed and found good shots. We’ll start making those.”

The Panthers lost the first two quarters by one point each, missing shots at the end of each quarter that would have resulted in the lead. Lake Hamilton pushed out to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter before Bridges put in five new players. The second group scored five unanswered points and took a 9-7 lead before Lake Hamilton hit a three pointer in the final minute to take a 10-9 lead and hold it until the quarter ended.

The second quarter saw both teams struggle offensively. Cabot managed just one three pointer and three free throws against Lake Hamilton’s zone defense. The Panthers got some good looks, but went 0 for 7 from inside the three-point arc.

They were just one of 13 from two-point range in the first two quarters, while hitting three of seven three-point attempts.

The second half was a different game. Lake Hamilton switched to a man defense and Cabot doubled its offensive output. The Panthers outscored the Wolves 30-14 in the second half.

“They started playing us man but I tell you I think the biggest difference was we picked up our defensive intensity and created some easy baskets off our defense,” Bridges said.

The Panthers were six of seven from two-point range in the third quarter while forcing seven Lake Hamilton turnovers. Hunter York and Ryan Stafford each got steals that led to baskets. Bryan Shrum and Kyle Theilemier combined for 12 of Cabot’s 16 points in the quarter.

“If we can keep getting better on the defensive end we’ll be alright,” Bridges said. “We’ll compete and beat some people. We need to be better at the free-throw line though. We can’t give points up like that.”

The Panthers were 12 of 19 from the line. Post player Michael Smith got to the line most frequently, and hit one of two on each of his five trips.

“Michael played a great game,” Bridges said. “He’s got a way of getting to the goal. We’re going to need him to be a little better on free throws because I think he’s going to have an opportunity to get to the line quite a bit for us this year.”

The Panthers went five of 12 from three-point range, with four different players knocking down outside shots.

“We’re not as deep at guard as we were last year, but I think we shoot it better than last year,” Bridges said. “If we keep working the ball around like we did, we’ll get good shots. We just have to make them. We struggled shooting as a team last year, and we will at times this year, but I think this team is a little better shooting team than that one, I really do.”

Cabot’s first official game of the season is Nov. 20 at Conway.