Saturday, July 12, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers improving in summer

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers continued to develop their depth at their latest team basketball camp at Panther Arena on Tuesday and Thursday. Cabot played five exhibition games, and won two, but for head coach Jerry Bridges, the point of the whole camp is to further develop each and every one of his players.

“I feel like we’re getting better,” said Bridges. “We’re making progress. We’re getting better and I’m learning about some people. The main thing, we’re just trying to develop some of our depth right now. Everybody at one time or another has shown flashes.”

Cabot beat Russellville on Tuesday for its first win of this week’s camp, and on Thursday, the Panthers handed Beebe a 37-19 loss before losing a close one to a very talented Morrilton team in the nightcap.

Against Beebe, the Panthers jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Beebe came back to tie it up at 4-4. Cabot responded with an 11-0 run to push its lead to double digits at 15-4, and by halftime, the Panthers maintained that double-digit lead at 18-8.

The format for the exhibition games were two 18-minute halves with a continuous clock, and the clock only stopped for timeouts and when it was appropriate within the final two minutes of the game.

In the second half, Beebe managed to get the score within single digits on consecutive threes by junior guard Bryson Bell, which made it a 24-16 ball game, but Cabot’s Hunter Southerland got a fast-break bucket on the following possession to push the Panther lead back to double digits, and the host team never looked back.

Cabot steadily built on its lead from there. Panther senior two-guard Jake Ferguson sank a pair of free throws with less than two minutes to play, which pushed the host team’s lead to 35-19, and with 1:25 remaining, junior Garrett Rowe got a contested basket underneath the goal to set the final score.

Rowe led all scorers in that game with 11 points.

What looked to be a competitive game on paper looked like a potential blowout in the beginning of the Panthers’ final game of the evening against Morrilton. The Devil Dogs scored 16 of the game’s first 18 points to lead 16-2.

Cabot was finally able to find its offense and get some stops on defense as well to cut the Devil Dogs’ lead to 20-13. However, Morrilton’s Chave Zackary hit a 3-pointer with just over a minute to go in the first half to push the visitors’ lead back to double digits by halftime, leading 23-13.

In the second half, the Panthers steadily chipped away at the Devil Dogs’ lead. Cabot got to within seven near the 7:30 mark of the second half on an and-1 by Rowe that made it 32-25 Morrilton.

With 3:01 remaining, Southerland got a left-handed turnaround bucket inside to make it 33-31 Morrilton, and with 1:50 to play, Rowe got a putback off a Ferguson miss from the corner that tied the game at 33-33.

However, with 23 seconds to play, Morrilton leading scorer Marcel Swinton hit a clutch three to put his team back up three, leading 36-33, and with 6.1 ticks to play, Swinton sank a pair of free throws to put the game out of the Panthers’ reach, as the host team trailed 38-33.

With an open look in the waning seconds, Rowe drained a 3-pointer of his own to set the final score with 1.3 seconds remaining. Bridges called timeout to set up a defensive play on Morrilton’s inbound pass, but the Devil Dogs successfully inbounded the ball and time ran out to end the game in their favor.

Cabot shot 44 percent from the floor against Morrilton, making 15 of 34 attempts. Morrilton made 40 percent of its shots from the floor on 12 of 30 attempts. Rowe led all scorers in that game as well. He finished with 15 points. Swinton led Morrilton with 14 points.

Cabot will host another team basketball camp on Tuesday and Thursday of next week. Watson Chapel, Searcy and Little Rock Catholic will be the other teams there, and the first games on each day will begin at 4 p.m.