Monday, December 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers get two victories at White Hall

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers went 2-0 at the Relyance Bank Classic at White Hall over the weekend with a dominant 53-25 win over Beebe on Friday, and a close, 40-36 win over the host team on Saturday.

In Friday’s matchup with the class 5A Badgers, the Panthers led 22-14 at halftime before putting the game away comfortably in the final two quarters. Saturday’s matchup was a much tougher challenge.

The score was tied at 10-10 at the end of the first quarter. White Hall (3-7) started the game with a 10-5 run, but Cabot (6-2) added a basket before senior point guard Hunter York drained his second three-pointer of the quarter to tie it up at 10 apiece.

Neither team found any separation in the second quarter, but the Panthers led the Bulldogs 21-17 at halftime. In the third quarter, White Hall took a 25-23 lead on a baseline three-pointer by Will Johnson with 3:59 remaining in the period.

Cabot added a basket before retaking the lead on a transition bucket by senior post Michael Smith that made the score 27-26 in Cabot’s favor.

The Panthers had possession in the waning seconds of the third quarter, but while setting up their final play, White Hall’s J’Breun Steen stole the ball and took it the distance for the go-ahead layup with six seconds remaining.

Steen’s bucket should have been the final points of the quarter, but Jaylen Spicer stole the inbound pass and after missing his first shot attempt after the steal, he got his own putback at the buzzer to put the host Bulldogs up 30-27 heading into the final eight minutes.

White Hall added to its lead by scoring the first four points of the fourth quarter, which put the Panthers at a 34-27 deficit. Cabot responded with eight-straight points to retake the lead. The run started with a much-needed three-pointer by Garrett Rowe, and ended with another three from Rowe that put the Panthers back up 35-34 with 1:57 to play.

With 50 seconds remaining, White Hall retook the lead, 36-35, on a baseline jumper by Jake McNulty. Cabot added the next score with 21.3 seconds remaining on a putback by sophomore Hunter Southerland to make it 37-36 Panthers.

Cabot’s defense held, and White Hall had to foul and hope the Panthers missed their free throws. Rowe was sent to the line after the inbound pass, and made the first, but missed the second attempt.

The Bulldogs got the ball past half court where they then called timeout to set up one final play. However, there was miscommunication on the inbound pass, and White Hall threw it out of bounds across the court, giving the ball back to Cabot.

With 1.4 seconds remaining, Southerland made 2 of 2 free throws to set the final score. It was a hard-fought, well-deserved win for the Panthers, especially considering they had to overcome some tough officiating throughout the game, whether it was not getting a foul call or being called for a traveling violation when indeed there was no traveling violation.

“We knew it was going to be that way coming down here, I’ll tell you that right now,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges after the game. “We knew coming down here we weren’t going to get many calls. You might as well buckle up and get ready to overcome that.

“I was proud of my kids because we faced adversity. Garrett Rowe stepped up and hit two big threes. Hunter Southerland had a big putback and two free throws at the end. I was really proud of those guys for stepping up for us. You’re going to have games like that. Last year, we would’ve lost that.

“We’ve got some grit about us, and I told them at halftime we’ve got to grind this one out because we weren’t playing well. We weren’t clicking very well. I thought at the end of the third quarter we got out of character, but we could’ve lost that and we’re going to take it as an early Christmas present.”

Cabot outrebounded White Hall 25-14, but committed one additional turnover than the Bulldogs did, as the Panthers finished with 16. Neither team shot well at the free-throw and three-point lines. Cabot was 3 for 8 from the line for 38 percent, and 5 for 19 from three-point range for 26 percent.

Conversely, White Hall was 3 for 11 from beyond the arc for 27 percent, and an abysmal 6 for 22 from the stripe for 27 percent.

Southerland led all scorers with 14 points. York and Rowe scored nine apiece. Tyler Pirson led the Bulldogs with 10 points, while teammates Jordan Lawson and Steen added seven apiece.

The Panthers play again Friday at the Beebe Holiday Tournament against Harding Academy at 2:30 p.m. at Badger Sports Arena.