Friday, December 20, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls place first in tourney

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Panthers withstood Vilonia’s comeback efforts in the fourth quarter of the Cabot Pre-Holiday Tournament championship game on Monday to win 42-34, and leave Panther Arena with the tournament title.

Monday’s matchup was a rematch of last year’s Cabot Pre-Holiday Tournament championship game. In the 2012 title game, the Lady Eagles stunned the Lady Panthers with a 46-28 blowout victory.

Cabot wasn’t able to pull away like Vilonia did last year, but the host team brought the first-place trophy back home, no less.

There wasn’t much action in the first three quarters as Vilonia (8-2) struggled to make field goals, especially from three-point range, and as a result, Cabot appeared to be on its way to an easy victory. The Lady Panthers pushed their fourth-quarter lead to double digits with 5:50 to play on an and-one by sophomore CoCo Calhoon, which put the host team up 28-16.

It wasn’t long after that, though, when the Lady Eagles’ shots started to fall. Vilonia trailed Cabot 32-19 late in the game, but senior guard Audrey Moran scored five-straight points for the Lady Eagles on a three-pointer and mid-court steal that led to a layup at the other end, which cut the deficit to 32-24 with 2:19 remaining.

Cabot failed to score on the ensuing possession, and Moran drained another three-pointer with 1:34 to play, trimming the Lady Panthers’ lead to 32-27. Ten seconds later, Calhoon was fouled, and she calmly sank both free throws to push Cabot’s lead to 34-27. Calhoon then stole the ball on Vilonia’s following possession, and she took it the distance, scoring on a highly-contested turnaround layup with 1:07 remaining that put the host team up nine with the score 36-27.

Vilonia made a free throw on its next possession to make it an eight-point game, but had to foul and hope Cabot missed its free throws. That didn’t happen, though, as junior guard Danielle McWilliams hit both free throws to put the Lady Panthers back on top by double digits, leading 38-28.

Lady Eagles’ junior guard Cassidy McNespey then hit another Vilonia three-pointer on its next possession, and after Cabot failed to score on its next possession, Moran drained another Vilonia three to make it a four-point game, trailing the Lady Panthers 38-34 with 19 seconds remaining.

That was as close as Vilonia would get, however, as Cabot sophomore point guard Leighton Taylor made two free throws with 14.2 ticks remaining, and junior forward Alyssa Hamilton sank two more with 00.3 on the clock to set the final score.

Cabot led 4-0 at the start of the game, and 10-7 at the end of the opening quarter. Vilonia couldn’t even manage a single field goal in the second quarter.

Senior forward McKenzie Morris made two free throws at the beginning of the second quarter, but those were the only points the Lady Eagles would score for the remainder of the half, as Cabot ended the second period with a 7-0 run to lead 17-9 at halftime.

The first points of the third quarter weren’t scored until the 3:23 mark, when Calhoon scored on a driving layup to make the score 19-9 in the Lady Panthers’ favor. At the end of three, Cabot led 23-14.

The Lady Panthers outrebounded the Lady Eagles 26-17, but Cabot finished the game with 18 turnovers, 11 of which came in the second half. Vilonia committed 11 turnovers in the game, but just four in the final two quarters.

Both teams were close percentage-wise at the free-throw line. Cabot made 15 of 21 shots for 71 percent, while Vilonia made 9 of 14 attempts from the line for 64 percent.

The biggest difference-making statistic in the game was the three-point shooting.

Cabot didn’t make a single three, but had just four attempts. Vilonia, a team known for airing it out from long distance, was 5 for 20 from beyond the arc for 25 percent. However, the Lady Eagles were just 1 for 11 from three-point range in the first half, and 4 for 9 in the second.

Calhoon led all scorers with 19 points. Hamilton and McWilliams scored eight points apiece. Hamilton also had a game-high nine rebounds. Taylor scored four points for Cabot, all of which came in the second half and at the free-throw line.

Moran led Vilonia with 11 points, all of which were scored in the second half, while McNespey finished with 10 points.

The Lady Panthers are scheduled to play again at a tournament in Mansfield, Texas the day after Christmas. Their next home game won’t be until Jan. 14 when they host Marion in the second week of 7A/6A East Conference action.