Monday, December 10, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot beats Chapel for first win

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers led for just a few seconds the entire game, but they led when the final buzzer sounded. And that was good enough for head coach Jerry Bridges, who saw his team pick up its first win of the season Tuesday by beating Watson Chapel 41-39 in the first round of the Cabot Pre-Holiday Invitational at Panther Arena.

“We needed that ok, but I’m going to say this, we’ve been practicing much better,” Bridges said. “Our effort in practice has been much better and we carried that over into this game.”
Free throws kept Cabot (1-3) in the game in the fourth quarter. The Panthers were 4 of 13 from the line through three quarters, but hit 11 of 13 in the fourth quarter to stay in the game and ultimately win it.

“We finally hit some free throws in the fourth quarter,” Bridges said. “Thank goodness too because we were terrible before then.”

The Panthers led twice for a total of 48 seconds in the third quarter. They didn’t lead again until 2.7 seconds were left in the game. With the score tied, Michael Smith rebounded a missed three-point attempt by Hunter York, and was fouled going back up for the putback. Smith drained both attempts and Chapel called timeout to set up a last-second shot attempt.

The Wildcats (4-2) never got the shot. The inbounds pass to midcourt was high and skimmed over the top of Santonio Cole’s fingers. A scramble for the loose ball lasted until the buzzer sounded, giving the Panthers their first win in three tries.

The Panthers opened the game in matchup zone that had Chapel puzzled for a while. The Wildcats remained patient and worked the ball around to get open shots. Three of Watson Chapel’s possessions in the first quarter lasted more than a minute, but two resulted in baskets.

Cabot also managed just two buckets, a shot in the lane by Smith and a three-pointer by York as the first quarter ended tied at five.

Watson Chapel threatened to pull away in the second quarter after getting hot from outside. Three pointers by three different players busted Cabot’s zone and Chapel moved out to an 18-10 lead. Cabot guard Bryan Shrum scored an acrobatic bucket late in the quarter as Chapel took an 18-12 lead into halftime.

Cole came off the bench and provided a spark for Chapel in the third, but York got hot from outside to keep Cabot close. Cole got a steal, four points and four rebounds – two offensive – while York scored nine of the Panthers’ 14 points in the third quarter. York’s streak came early in the period as Cabot took two brief leads. Cole came on in the latter part of the third and Chapel again led 28-26 going into the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats were called for several more fouls in the third quarter, and that led to several more trips to the line for the Panthers in the fourth. Cabot got just two field goals in the fourth quarter, which would have spelled doom for the Panthers in their previous three-and-three-quarters games. But that changed in the fourth quarter on Tuesday. Smith, who had been below 50 percent from the line this season, hit 6 of 7 attempts in the fourth quarter. Kyle Thielemier hit all four of his and Brett Frazier hit 1 of 2.

“We work on that,” Bridges said. “That’s what I want you to understand. We work on it. We hadn’t been a very good shooting team so far, but we’re working on it.”

Bench players led the way for both teams. York led all scorers with 14 points while Cole dropped in 13 for the Wildcats. Chapel’s Jalen Courtney scored 11 while Smith added 10 for the Panthers.

Watson Chapel played Catholic at 4 p.m. Friday while Cabot faced Vilonia at 7 p.m. Vilonia beat Catholic 43-40 in the first round. Other first-round games saw Benton beat Paragould and Hot Springs Lakeside knock off Searcy. Benton beat Lakeside 52-42 on Wednesday and faces the Cabot-Vilonia winner in the championship game at 4:30 p.m. today.