Friday, November 21, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot boys pull away late against the Rockets

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ basketball team won its season opener Tuesday, beating the Catholic Rockets 51-33 with a dominant second-half performance at Panther Arena. Cabot led just 21-20 at halftime, but a renewed emphasis on rebounding and the ability to capitalize on Catholic foul trouble led to a runaway win.

“I was pleased,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “The jamboree we went to exposed some things we needed to work on, and I thought the boys responded to those things in practice and executed them better in this game.”

Foul trouble for both teams’ point guards played a big role in the game. Cabot sophomore Bobby Joe Duncan missed most of the second quarter, and the Rockets closed a 21-13 deficit to just one by halftime.

Catholic point guard Chad Wharton picked up his second and third fouls in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter, and Cabot went from up 24-23 to 36-25 over the next few minutes.

“I think you could see when Bobby Joe had to take a seat that we need him out there,” Bridges said. “Of course we don’t have everyone yet and when we get them all here and healthy we’ll have a lot more help there. But you could also see a difference when their point guard went out. I felt like we had a good advantage when (Wharton) wasn’t out there and I thought we did a good job of taking advantage of that.”

Cabot led 33-25 when Tyler Hill lobbed from the top of the key to post player Jared Dixon at the rim. Dixon was fouled and completed the three-point play with 1:21 left in the third quarter.

Wharton checked in after the free throw and drained a 3-pointer to cut the margin to eight, but he picked up his fourth foul with six seconds left in the third and went back to the bench to start the fourth.

Cabot forward Hunter Southerland missed the shot on the inbound play after the foul, but Dixon got the offensive board and putback to make it 38-28 going into the fourth quarter.

The first bucket of the fourth was also a Dixon putback. The 6-foot-6 junior got all six of his rebounds in the second half.

“I got on him a little bit at halftime because he didn’t have a single rebound for us,” Bridges said of his center. “I really needed him to respond to that and I was very pleased with how he did. He’s long and he’s so athletic, we need him to step up. I love how hard he works in practice, but he got to watching a little bit in that first half. I was very pleased, though, with how he played in the second half. We need that from him all the time.”

Seconds after checking back in, Wharton fouled out with 5:48 remaining, crashing into Dixon’s back going for a rebound. The Rockets struggled mightily on offense without Wharton on the floor, failing to score a bucket in the final quarter until 1:16 remained in the game.

Garrett Rowe led Cabot with 14 points, and drew the head Panther’s praises.

“I thought Garrett did a great job of being that guy that was steady for us the whole game,” Bridges said. “He’s been that way for us. He played with a lot of energy.

“I thought the whole team played with a lot more energy in the second half, and toughness. One thing I hadn’t been seeing in practice was the willingness to step in and take that hit to draw a charge. I think we drew three or four and that made me feel a lot better.”

Rowe also led the Panthers with seven rebounds, while Dixon finished with 13 points and six boards. William Hancock led Catholic with 11 points while Wharton scored 10.

Cabot held the Rockets to just 31 total shot attempts while forcing 21 turnovers. The visitors made just 10 of them, including 4 of 11 from three-point range.

Cabot hit 20 of 42 attempts from the floor, including 2 of 11 from outside.

The Panthers, 1-0, travel to Conway on Tuesday.