Friday, February 15, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win third straight, defeat Central

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers won their third straight 7A/6A East Conference game Tuesday with a lopsided 63-35 decision over Little Rock Central at Panther Arena.

The win avenged last month’s 49-47 loss to the Tigers at Central High School. Cabot has showed steady improvement since the beginning of the season, especially in the post. Junior 6-foot-4 post player Michael Smith played his best game as a Panther, scoring a career-high 25 points.

“They beat us at their place 49-47, and I thought we played OK then,” said head Panther Jerry Bridges. “We’re executing our stuff well and we’re getting good shots. Michael Smith, I’ve been seeing progress the past 10 days. He’s coming on and I’m really happy for him, but I just thought our team did a good job of working together and getting the good shot.”

A three pointer by Jake Ferguson 46 seconds into the game was the start of a 13-2 Cabot scoring run. At the end of the quarter, the Panthers led 18-8 before Smith scored on a rebound and putback to give the home team a 20-8 lead.

Cabot (10-12, 5-6) pushed its lead to 15 on an and-one play by Smith at the 5:15 mark of the second quarter, but Central (6-13, 3-8) responded with a 12-0 run to cut the Panther lead to 25-22. With 2:02 to play in the half, Ferguson ended Cabot’s scoreless streak with a baseline three, which sparked a 7-0 run to close the half. The Panthers led 32-22 at the break.

“We went through that one stretch where we got out of our nature,” Bridges said about Central’s second-quarter run. “We settled down and Jake Ferguson hit a big three for us that really helped us, and we got back to doing what we do.”

The Panthers committed half of their 12 turnovers during the Tigers’ run in the second quarter. Central also totaled 12 turnovers, but committed eight in the second half. At the start of the third quarter, Cabot pushed its lead to 16 as Smith scored the first six points of the second half from his post position.

Smith was a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in the third, scoring eight of the Panthers’ 19 points in the period. Central scored seven points in the period on three field goals, and at the end of three, Cabot led by a comfortable 51-29 margin.

“When I realized I had already put 13 points up in the first half I was like all right, well, let’s give me the ball and let’s score,” said Smith. “But, you know, it’s a team effort and that’s what really helped out. We lost by two at their place, but we knew that we wanted this win, because we want to get to state and that’s our team goal. Everybody is playing like a team and that’s what’s helping us.”

Like the previous quarter, Smith scored the first basket of the fourth, and made two free throws to give the Panthers a 55-29 lead before sitting the rest of the game. Cabot outscored Central 12-6 in the final quarter to set the final score.

Cabot dominated the paint through all four quarters, outrebounding Central 25-12. The Panthers made 13 of 17 free throws for 76 percent, and 4 of 10 three pointers for 40 percent. Central made 6 of 11 free throws for 55 percent, and 1 of 9 three pointers for an abysmal 11 percent.

Ferguson finished with eight points. Kyle Theilemier added six, and Bryan Shrum, Clayton Vaught and Nick Thomas each scored five points for Cabot. Kyle Nelson led Central with nine points.

The Panthers continued 7A/6A East play against West Memphis yesterday at home after deadlines, and will travel to No. 2 Jonesboro on Tuesday.