Friday, February 01, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> LR Central takes two game lead in the East

Leader sports editor

Little Rock Central successfully put some distance between itself and the rest of the league with the way it ended the first round robin of play in the 7A/6A East girls division. The Lady Tigers beat Cabot 51-41 Tuesday in Little Rock to move to 7-0 and take a two-game lead over three teams tied for second place at 5-2. Cabot, North Little Rock and West Memphis are those three teams, and the Lady Tigers beat them all in succession.

Central’s Taylor Lewis started the game against Cabot the same way she started the game against North Little Rock the Friday before, on fire from three-point range.

Lewis hit a pair of three pointers in the middle of the first quarter that pushed a 6-5 game into a 12-5 Lady Tiger lead over the Panthers. But it would take until the final three minutes of the game before Central could seal the game against the hard-nosed Cabot squad.

Every time Central (15-4, 7-0) pushed out to a decent margin, Cabot stormed back. Lewis hit two more three in succession in the second quarter to give her team a 25-18 lead, but Cabot sophomore Alyssa Hamilton scored six-straight points. Central’s Amy Ruffin then scored and Cabot hit one of two free throws.

The Lady Panthers had three possessions to tie or take the lead, but missed the front end of a one-and-one and committed two turnovers. Central’s Chloe Washington then scored to make it 29-25 and Cabot was never within three points again.

Turnovers and missed free throws plagued Cabot from beginning to end, especially at the beginning of the first and third quarters. Cabot had five turnovers before it took a shot from the floor in the first quarter, then committed four-straight turnovers to start the second half.

After Central led 29-25, Cabot (12-5, 5-2) missed three consecutive free throws in the final 90 seconds of the first half. Lewis then converted a three-point play at the buzzer for a 32-25 halftime lead.

The third quarter was very physical with little offense by either team. Cabot’s four turnovers allowed Central to stretch its lead to 36-25. Cabot closed the margin to seven by the end of the quarter when Ally Van Enk hit a shot at the buzzer that made it 40-33.

A long weather delay with 39 seconds left in the third quarter allowed both teams to rest, and it seemed to favor the Lady Panthers once play resumed.

Cabot’s defense made things difficult for Central early in the fourth quarter. The Lady Tigers didn’t score a point until the 2:54 mark and didn’t score a basket until 2:37. But Cabot had only managed four points in that time and still trailed 40-37 when things fell apart.

The foul at 2:54 was the fifth on Taylor. Washington made one of two, but Cabot lost the rebound out of bounds. Alaysia Ready scored on the ensuing possession to make it 43-37. Ruffin then got a steal and hit two free throws after being fouled. After being held scoreless for more than five minutes, Central scored five points in 24 seconds to take an eight-point lead with 2:30 remaining and regain control of the game.

Cabot continued to struggle from the line, missing the front end of two more one-and-one free-throw attempts. Central capitalized on the poor shooting and stretched its lead to as much as 49-37.

Lewis led all scorers with 17 points while Ruffin scored 10 for Central. Hamilton led the Lady Panthers with 15 points while Taylor scored 12 despite the foul problems.