Wednesday, January 16, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot gathers itself to get win

Leader sportswriter

What the game lacked in overall scoring it made up for with what turned out to be a physical and, at times, touchy battle as Cabot overtook Mountain Home early in the fourth quarter and went on to win 42-34 at Panther Arena on Friday in what amounted to a do-or-die 7A/6A East Conference victory for the Panthers.

Cabot dug a 16-9 hole in the first half of the bumpy defensive struggle, but came back late in the third quarter to erase what became a 12-point deficit until Panther guard Jake Ferguson came away with a pair of key steals he converted into transition points, as well as a three-point basket to start the fourth quarter and another inside shot with 5:40 left to play that cut the Bombers’ lead to 26-25.

But in between Ferguson’s comeback-leading shots in the fourth was an ugly incident in which Cabot reserve post player Adolpho Iglesias and Mountain Home center Jack Schmitt came to blows under the Cabot goal with just over six minutes remaining. The officials ejected Iglesias and called a personal foul on Schmitt, which paired with the double technical called against the two gave him five personals and a seat on the bench with a close 26-23 score.

“I thought Jake Ferguson did a great job sparking us tonight,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “And I think once he got us going, it turned into a team effort. I thought Kyle (Thielemier) hit some big threes, Michael Smith stepped up there and made some big free throws. We needed that, it was a big win for us.”

The Panthers (5-8, 1-2) struggled from the floor most of the game, going 10 for 31 for 32 percent, but made up for much of it by hitting 6 of 12 attempts from behind the three-point line. The Bombers (3-7, 1-2) were more efficient at 12 for 23 from the floor for 52 percent including 6 of 9 three-point attempts for 67 percent.

Mountain Home appeared to be on the way to a one-sided victory early in the second quarter as guard Buck Gilbert put the Bombers up 14-3 at the 6:55 mark with a three-point basket. The gap widened through the early part of the second half as The Bombers went up 26-14 with 3:20 left in the period following two free throws by Skylar Culver.

Cabot went to a press defense late in the third and started to find momentum. Ferguson’s three with 7:23 remaining put momentum fully on Cabot’s side, but Iglesias’s skirmish with Schmitt shortly after that turned a game filled with subtle jostles into somewhat of a grudge match down the stretch. Iglesias had to sit out last night’s game at Little Rock Central due to the ejection.

“They just get tied up, and I think (Schmitt) tried to swing at him,” Bridges said. “A.I. retaliated back, but they didn’t see the swing. He feels bad about it, I mean, he just got caught up in the moment at the time. It’s going to hurt us not having him Tuesday.”

Senior Clayton Vaught pulled Cabot even with the Bombers with a three pointer that made it 28-28 at the 4:32 mark, and Thielemier completed the comeback with a three to give The Panthers a 31-28 lead with 3:26 left to play. The Panthers protected their lead late by hitting 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute, including four straight for Thielemier inside 35 seconds.

Thielemier led the Panthers with 12 points and five rebounds, all of which came in the second half. Ferguson added 10 points and four steals while Vaught finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

For Mountain Home, Gilbert led with 14 points and five rebounds.

Cabot will play at West Memphis on Friday.