Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers stifle Sheridan

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers picked up their second win of the young basketball season on Thursday, beating Sheridan 54-37 in front of a sparse crowd at Panther Arena. Impending winter storms kept many fans away, and they missed a solid performance as the Panthers won their second-straight game after dropping the season opener.

The Cabot defense stifled the athletic and tall Yellowjackets for most of the game, but the Panthers still had to overcome a late scoring lull to hold on for the victory.

“Sheridan is a lot better than they looked tonight, and I think our defense had something to do with that,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “You saw flashes of how athletic they are, but my kids came out and played hard. They defended hard, they hit the boards hard, and that’s what won this game for us.”

The Panthers’ defense was especially smothering in the first and third quarters, while the offense came out firing early in the third to take command of the game.

Patience was also a big key for Cabot. The Panthers set the tone for the game on their opening possession. After a Sheridan miss to start the game, Cabot passed the ball 12 times on its opening possession before a skip pass from Hunter Southerland to Hunter York resulted in a three pointer.

Sheridan didn’t get a field goal through the first four minutes of the game, but did make scoring difficult for Cabot. The Panthers held a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Yellowjackets never led, but they did briefly tie the game at 14 midway through the second period. But the last half of the second and first half of the third quarters were the difference in the game.

Cabot closed the first half with a 12-2 run, and opened the second half with a 10-0 run, taking a commanding 36-16 lead with 4:19 on the clock.

Sophomore Garrett Rowe, who had two steals in the first quarter, added two more in the third. He also scored four points in the third-quarter run. Southerland, another sophomore, added a steal and four assists in the win.

“I like my sophomores,” Bridges said. “They’ve got a lot to learn and a long way to go, but they’re great kids to coach and they work hard. They’re high-character kids and they’re going to be good players.”

Sheridan’s first points of the third quarter came off two free throws with 4:07 left that made it 36-18. Cabot scored five more after that to take a 41-18 lead, but from that point, the Panthers began having their own trouble finding the bottom of the net.

The Yellowjackets’ first basket of the period came with 57 seconds on the clock and made it 41-20. Sheridan went on to score 10 in a row and cut Cabot’s lead to 41-28 with 6:10 remaining in the game.

Cabot went almost six minutes without scoring, but the defense managed to keep Sheridan at bay. Finally, the Panthers dropped in four quick points to take a 45-28 lead with 5:03 left in the game. Sheridan got it back down to a 14-point margin, but four more quick points gave the Panthers a 50-32 lead with three minutes left and Sheridan’s coach conceded by calling timeout and putting five reserves on the floor.

“Going that long without a basket is not fun,” Bridges said. “The same thing happened to us against Conway. I think this team will be able to score better than that down the road, and we did have some good moments. But again, our defense I thought was really good, and that kept us out front when we weren’t able to score the basketball.”

Sophomores did many of the little things, seniors did the scoring. York and post player Michael Smith combined for 34 points, with Smith leading the way with 18. York also led the team in rebounds with seven, as the Panthers outrebounded the larger Yellowjackets 23-16. The Panthers were 20 of 43 from the floor while Sheridan made just 12 of 43. Both teams made 10 free throws, Cabot in 15 attempts and Sheridan in 13.

The Cabot Pre-Holiday Tournament starts today, and the Panthers will host Hot Springs Lakeside at 7 p.m. at Panther Arena.