Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot ladies dominate Chapel

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Panthers were dominant in their season opener against Watson Chapel on Monday, forcing turnover after turnover on their way to a convincing 53-24 mercy-rule win in the first round the annual Heavenly Hoops tournament at Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock.

Cabot (1-0) forced a whopping 33 turnovers in the game, 26 of which came in the first half. Watson Chapel (0-1) had no answer for the Lady Panthers’ press defense, and after falling into a 22-5 hole at the end of the first quarter, things didn’t get any easier for the class 5A Lady Wildcats, as they went into halftime trailing 36-8.

“We got on a roll,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “The only bad thing was we missed some easy shots. With Watson Chapel, they’re young, and anybody can play like that. But one way or another, we showed up. They lost a couple of really good players from last year, but, you know, we feel fortunate.”

Watson Chapel is a young team with just one senior and one junior on the squad, but so is Cabot. The Lady Panthers started three sophomores and two juniors against the Lady Wildcats. Only one of those juniors is a returning starter, and she played like a superstar Monday night.

Forward Alyssa Hamilton is Cabot’s only returning starter, and she was stellar in the first half of the Lady Panthers’ season opener, as she scored 19 points, grabbed five rebounds, had two steals, and one assist. She finished the game with a high of 23 points.

“I told Hamilton to make a list of everything she had to eat today,” Ruple joked, “because you don’t play like that very often. She took some good shots, and she got on a roll.”

Cabot pushed its lead to 30 right at the start of the second half with a driving basket by sophomore point guard Leighton Taylor, which made the score 38-8. Watson Chapel answered with a basket on its next possession, but the Lady Panthers responded just seconds later with an and-one play by junior post Maddie Willhite, which pushed the lead to 41-10.

The Lady Panthers’ lead grew to 49-17 by the end of the third quarter, which invoked the sportsmanship rule at the start of the fourth. Cabot’s starters sat for the entire fourth quarter, and all of the Lady Panthers’ points in the final period came at the free-throw line.

Sophomore guard Anna Sullivan scored the first two points for Cabot in the final period by draining 2 of 2 free throws with 3:51 remaining. Watson Chapel then scored on a short jumper by sophomore guard LaDajah Scott, but Lady Panther sophomore guard Lilly Sinclair added a free throw with 2:35 to play, which pushed the Cabot lead back to 30 with the score 52-22.

Cabot’s final point of the evening came with 1:55 remaining as senior guard Lakyn Crumbly drained a free throw, which upped the Lady Panthers’ point total to 53.

The Lady Panthers committed just 13 turnovers in the game – 20 fewer than Watson Chapel’s total. Cabot was also the better team on the boards as it finished with 24 rebounds, which was slightly better than Watson Chapel’s total of 21.

Even though it was an overall solid showing, the Lady Panthers did struggle at the free-throw and three-point lines. Cabot made just 55 percent of its free throws on 12 of 22 shooting, and made just one three-pointer on 11 attempts for 9 percent.

Hamilton was the only Lady Panther with double-digit points. Sophomore guard CoCo Calhoon was second on the team’s scoring list. She finished with eight points, all of which came in the first half. Taylor and Willhite added seven apiece.

The win put Cabot in tonight’s semifinal round of the tournament against North Little Rock, who manhandled Sylvan Hills 76-33 on Monday. Tonight’s game is scheduled to tip-off at 8:30 at the Mount St. Mary Academy gymnasium.