Tuesday, January 07, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers pour in 74 in victory

Leader sportswriter

BRYANT – Leading by a point at the end of the first quarter of Monday’s nonconference finale at the Hornets’ Nest, Cabot gained separation in the second quarter and never looked back, as the Panthers left Saline County with a 74-52 win over the Bryant Hornets.

Thanks to a baseline three-pointer by senior point guard Hunter York in the waning seconds of the first quarter, Cabot led Bryant 11-10 at the start of the second quarter. That momentum carried over into the second quarter as the Panthers opened the period with a 10-0 run, pushing their lead to 21-10.

The run was capped with a three-pointer by junior two-guard Jake Ferguson with 5:24 remaining in the opening half, and Cabot maintained its double-digit lead at halftime, leading 31-19.

“I just think we had good shot selection,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges of his team’s second-quarter run. “I told our guys coming in ‘Guys, if you make four or five passes they’re going to want to get the ball going on the other end so bad that they may give up some good shots for us.’

“I just thought we did a good job of executing what we did and trying to defend their three, and we did a good job rebounding for the most part. I just thought we did a good job of getting everybody involved and I thought our scoring was fairly balanced, too.”

The Panthers use nine players in their normal rotation, and all nine scored Monday. York led the way offensively with 16 points and fellow senior Adolfo Iglesias came off the bench to score 14. Sophomores Garrett Rowe and Hunter Southerland scored nine points apiece.

Ferguson scored eight points. Senior post Michael Smith finished with seven points, and fellow seniors Nick Thomas and Jeremiah Penner added four. Sophomore post Jared Dixon rounded out the scoring for Cabot. He scored two points.

As far as the team’s shot selection, Cabot couldn’t have had a much better showing from the floor. The Panthers finished the game 27 of 50 from the floor for 54 percent, bettering Bryant’s 41 percent on 18 of 44 shooting.

“These kids, they’ve worked hard for us and done what we’ve asked,” Bridges said. “They try to take good shots for us. We don’t really take a lot of bad shots. I’m not going to say we don’t take any, but they try to take good shots. To come on the road and get that, you’ve got to like it.”

Cabot pushed its lead to 15 with 5:40 to play in the third quarter on a corner three by York, which made the score 36-21. Bryant never got within 15 points of the Panthers’ lead for the remainder of the game.

A pair of free throws by Smith with 3:06 left in the third quarter put the Panthers up 19 with the score 43-24, and Cabot maintained that 19-point lead by the start of the fourth quarter, leading 49-30.

An inside bucket by Thomas at the beginning of the fourth quarter pushed the Panther lead to 21.

Bryant (4-7) was able to trim its deficit to 15 on a couple of occasions in the game’s final minutes, but the Panthers didn’t let up, and with 41.4 seconds remaining, Cabot gained its largest lead at 23 on a free throw by Rowe, which made the score 74-51.

Bryant’s Cedarrian Crosby set the final score with a free throw in the waning seconds. Cabot finished the game with two fewer turnovers than Bryant with 15, but the most noticeable stat was on the boards. The Panthers had nearly double the rebounds as the Hornets, winning that margin 31-16.

Cabot finished its nonconference schedule 9-3, but will face a significant leap in competition Friday in the team’s 7A/6A East Conference opener, as the Panthers travel to North Little Rock for a matchup with the Charging Wildcats, last year’s class 7A state champions.

The boys’ game will tip-off after the girls’ matchup, which starts at 6 p.m.