Saturday, March 02, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers come up short in OT

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE — The Cabot Panthers went down for the final time this season on Wednesday, but they went down doing what they’ve done all along – battling.

The Panthers lost in overtime to Bryant 57-46 in the first round of the class 7A state tournament at Fayetteville High School, but not until rallying from a nine-point deficit and giving the higher-seeded and more athletic Hornets all they wanted.

“They just had a better overtime than we did,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “We battled. I’m proud of them. We missed some chippies in the first half that could have made it a different game, then we missed a couple of layups late in the game that were big. But that’s been us all season. We struggle to score the basketball. What makes me so proud of this team is how hard they battle and play defense. I’ve enjoyed this group.”

After an exciting four quarters, the overtime wasn’t much to speak of. Bryant scored the first nine points of the extra four-minute period to put the game away with 90 seconds remaining.

Cabot started to run its offense effectively in the third quarter and continued to do so in the fourth period and overtime, but the shots didn’t fall. When the Panthers had to start fouling in overtime, Bryant put it away with good free-throw shooting.

“I wish we could’ve gotten the foul calls they got when we would penetrate,” Bridges said. “I felt like we drew just as much contact as they did. Our guards don’t get to the rim just a whole lot. I thought Kyle (Theilemier) made a couple of great plays getting to the rim; we just didn’t get the call. But that’s not why we lost. Overall they called a pretty good game.”

Junior post player Michael Smith spurred Cabot’s comeback after the Panthers fell behind 31-22 midway through the third quarter. Smith scored on two baseline drives that resulted in reverse layups in the third quarter. The second capped an 11-2 run and tied the game at 33 with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter.

The Hornets took a 36-35 lead into the fourth, but it didn’t last long. Smith, at the high post, found Clayton Vaught streaking through the back door for an open layup that gave Cabot its first lead of the game with 7:50 remaining to play. That lead didn’t last long either. Bryant sophomore K.J. Hill put the Hornets back on top just 12 seconds later.

Bryant led 42-39 when Smith found Ryan Stafford on the same play run earlier for Vaught. After a defensive stop, Theilemier drained a three pointer that put the Panthers up 44-42 with 1:17 remaining.

Bryant’s C.J. Rainey was fouled away from the basket and sent to the line for a one-and-one.

He made both to tie the game with 54 seconds remaining, and that’s the way it stayed until time expired.