Wednesday, January 02, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot gets some luck, gets a win

Leader sportswriter

Cabot needed a little bit of luck, and a steady shooting hand from Nick Thomas from the free-throw line in the closing seconds, as the Panthers rallied to overtake Brookland 44-43 in the third-place game of the Badger Christmas Classic at Badger Sports Arena on Monday.

The Panthers (5-6) struggled from the floor most of the night, but kept themselves in contention through the first half with free throws. Cabot made only two shots from the floor in the first half, but went 8 of 11 from the charity stripe in that time to trail 15-14 at the break.

“We didn’t play very good,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “A lot of it, I give credit to Brookland, but I was proud of our guys. We could have quit, but we kept plugging and led at the end.”

The coaches and fans for each team made things spirited in the closing moments. Cabot fans disputed a late foul called against Clayton Vaught that sent Devon Newton to the line with Brookland trailing 43-42 and 11 seconds remaining on the clock. Newton hit both ends to give the Bearcats a 43-42 lead.

Senior point guard Bryan Shrum brought it down for the Panthers and attempted a three pointer that fell short. Thomas picked up the rebound in the lane and went back up just as the buzzer sounded and also drew a foul. That sent him to the line with no time left on the clock and Cabot trailing 43-42, but Thomas kept his cool under the pressure and swished both foul shots to give the Panthers the win.

“We couldn’t hit shots,” Bridges said. “We’re missing easy shots. I’m proud of us for still playing defense, because usually when you do that, you’re going to drop your intensity on defense. I was proud of Nick Thomas, I want to recognize him, because he hasn’t played much varsity ball all year. I told him he had a chance to be the hero at the end just because of how he played defense in the third quarter. He expended all his energy for us defensively. That’s why I put him out there at the end. He’s a good kid who works every day, so good for Nick.”

Brookland appeared to be pulling away late in the third quarter, pushing the margin to 24-16 by the 4:34 mark. The Bearcats took their biggest lead with 5:54 left to play when Will Ballard hit a three-point basket to make it 31-22. Cabot answered with an inside basket by Ryan Stafford, followed by a transition basket by Shrum off a steal to cut it back to 31-26 with 5:01 remaining.

Vaught pulled down a vital defensive rebound with 1:13 left to play that set up a shot by Thomas in the paint to cut Brookland’s lead to 41-40. Thomas then got a steal that led to a three-point basket by Vaught to give Cabot its first lead of the game, 42-41 with 11 seconds left to play.

“Thirteen fouls on us, four on them,” Bridges said. “And in the first quarter, it’s eight on us and two on them and we’re in our matchup. I’m not saying we’re not fouling, but I promise they’re fouling more than they’re calling on them, but I don’t know, those were two calls at the end that you wish could have been different.”

Hunter York led the Panthers with nine points while Ballard led Brookland with 11 points.

The Panthers will begin 7A/6A East Conference play with a home game against North Little Rock on Friday.