Friday, February 15, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> North girls playing for league title

Leader sportswriter

Revenge was both sweet and productive for Cabot North as the junior Lady Panthers avenged a pair of regular-season losses to Conway White with a 39-32 victory in the semifinal round of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference tournament at Panther Pavilion on Thursday.

The Lady Panthers (18-5) will take on Conway Blue in the championship game today at noon at Panther Arena.

It was the third matchup between the two teams, as the Lady Wampus Cats came into the game with the confidence of two prior wins, but could not find a handle on defending dynamic North guard CoCo Calhoun. Calhoun dominated both offensively and defensively with a game-high 16 points, along with a number of key steals and defensive rebounds that made the biggest difference in the game, particularly in the second half.

“We’ve been playing team basketball since the beginning of the year,” North coach Jeremy Halbrook said. “Since the first of the year, we’re 10-1 now. The way we’ve been executing, playing team ball, I couldn’t be any happier. Yesterday, when we found out we were playing Conway White, I told the girls that’s who I wanted to play, because they’re the only team we have not beat on our schedule this year. It’s nice to get a little revenge. I’m very proud of the girls.”

North and Conway Blue were co-conference champs during the regular season, making today’s final a true winner-take-all matchup.

The Lady Wampus Cats rushed out to an early 6-0 lead before Cabot came back on the strength of Calhoun, who made two free throws and a three-point basket to close the gap to one by the 2:02 mark of the first quarter.

The two teams battled to a 20-20 tie at the half before White took a 23-20 lead to open the second half. Calhoun responded for the Lady Panthers with three-consecutive baskets to hand the lead back to Cabot at 26-23 by the 3:42 mark.

“She’s been a good leader this year,” Halbrook said of Calhoun. “Her work ethic is real good. She’ll probably be a player that gets to move up at the end of our year and play with the high school. Overall this year, her competitiveness and will to win, it has made everyone else better.”

Lily Sinclair gave Cabot a late boost when she made a three-point basket with two minutes remaining to give the Lady Panthers a 34-30 lead. From there, North went 5 of 10 from the free-throw line and held Conway to a single basket.

While Calhoun is the undeniable breakout star of the team, Halbrook was quick to point out that North’s success has been a collaborative effort this season.

“My point guard, Rachel Allgood, she does an excellent job controlling the tempo,” Halbrook said. “We had a big three-point shot there by Lily Sinclair. In the last five games, Lily has stepped up. If she had played like this all year, we would probably be unbeatable. Maddie Rice has done a really good job as well. She’s improved. At the beginning of the year, Maddie was timid with the ball, but she’s learned to relax and play. My post player Claire Eifling, she’s done her part.”

Eifling added nine points for the Lady Panthers while Sinclair finished with eight points. Allgood had four points for Cabot North.


It was a rubber match with big implications as Conway Blue pulled off a second-half comeback to down Cabot South 43-38 in the semifinal round of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference tournament at Panther Pavilion on Thursday.

The two teams split their two regular-season conference games, but Conway (18-3) got the last word with a strong defensive performance in the second half.

The Lady Panthers dominated the first half and carried a 28-18 lead into the break, but the Lady Wampus Cats held their hosts to a single point in the third quarter and 10 points in the entire second half with an improved defensive strategy that denied South from getting into the paint for easy looks.

“We’ve been playing good defense, but we had to get on to them a little bit at halftime,” Conway Blue head coach Marlon Williams said. “Cabot is awesome. They’re a good team. We were just trying to keep them out of the lane. They’re really good at getting in the lane and getting easy buckets, and they will out work you any day. We just tried to make sure that we worked hard and boxed out and keep them off the boards, and that helped us in the end.”

Conway Blue will face Cabot South in the championship game today at noon at Panther Arena.

Heather Hill sent the Lady Panthers into the break with a 28-18 lead at the half when she drove in under the basket from the right side and scored just before the buzzer for her only points of the game. Anna Sullivan and Chloe Ban led Cabot North with 11 points each while Leighton Taylor and Sarah Davis each had five points for the Lady Panthers.

For Conway Blue, guard Alexis Tolefree led with 20 points while Futra Banks had 13 points.

Sullivan gave the Lady Panthers their largest lead of the game at the 5:16 mark of the third quarter when she hit the front end of a two-shot foul to make it 29-18, but Cabot South went scoreless for the remainder of the period. In that time, Conway Blue made up major ground primarily with a transition-based offense.

Banks cut the margin to 29-27 with a basket and free throw at the 3:14 mark, and tied the game at 29-29 with a bank shot inside with 2:55 left to play in the period. Banks wrapped up the frame by hitting the back end of a two-shot foul to give the Lady Cats their first lead of the game, 32-31, heading into the final quarter.

Ban finally ended the scoring drought for South when she scored on a putback with 4:25 left to play to cut Conway’s lead to 32-31, but Tolefree responded for the Lady Wampus Cats with a long-distance three pointer. Sullivan cut it back to one with a basket and free throw, but two more free throws from Tolefree made it 37-34, and an inside shot by Charlena Green made it a two-possession game.