The Cabot boys’ basketball team broke a dangerous trend in the fourth quarter to pull out a 52-43 victory over eStem Charter in the first round of the Beebe First Security Bank/Steve Gilliam Christmas Tournament on Saturday.
The Panthers spent the first half of the first three quarters building a nice lead, and the second half of each quarter giving it away. That is until the fourth quarter, when they put together a 9-0 run in a two-minute stretch of the final three minutes to secure the victory.
The Panthers seemed to be on the verge of taking over the game several times, but eStem always answered, twice in the final minute of the quarter.
But the tone was set on the game’s first possession. The Mets won the jump but couldn’t find an open shot. Cabot defended for 58 seconds before Garrett Rowe stole an entry pass to the elbow.
“That showed us that they weren’t just going to blow by us with the ball, which I was a little worried about to be honest with you,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “I knew they had a good record and when I saw them on film, I was concerned.”
Cabot pushed out to an 11-4 lead with a 9-0 run in the first quarter, but eStem’s Trevor Clark came offthe bench to score five in a row to close the period and pull his squad to within two points by quarter’s end.
Markel Hubbard then opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer to put the Mets up 12-11. The two teams traded baskets and stops for a few minutes before the Panthers put together another run, this one 9-0 that made it 27-18 with 1:21 left in the first half.
Panther forward Hunter Southerland capped the run with a fast break, two-handed slam that forced eStem coach Jeremy Brown to call timeout.
Clark did his work in the waning moments of the second quarter as well, scoring and getting to the line with 12 seconds left in the quarter to make it 27-21. He also got a steal on the ensuing possession but wasn’t able to score.
Cabot sophomore Jarrod Barnes sparked the Panthers early in the third quarter. Barnes lobbed a perfect alley-oop pass to Jared Dixon over the top of eStem’s 3-2 defense.
Dixon finished the play with a two-handed dunk to make it 31-25 Cabot. Barnes then stole the ball in the backcourt and delivered a nifty pass to Bobby Joe Duncan for a 33-25 Cabot lead that forced eStem’s fourth timeout.
Barnes then gave it all back with two-consecutive turnovers on Cabot’s next two possessions, and the Mets pulled to within four points quickly. Two guard RaShawn Langston added to the run with an old-fashioned three-point play after a turnover by Jake Ferguson that made it 33-32 with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
“We have to develop a better killer instinct,” Bridges said. “We got up eight or nine a few times and kept letting them back in with silly mistakes. That’s frustrating, but we bounced back. We need to be better than that from this point forward.”
Clark completed the Mets’ run by hitting 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game with 1:25 left in the third. Duncan then hit a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in the frame to give the Panthers a three-point lead heading into the final quarter.
Cabot’s Tyler Hill then opened the fourth with his own 3-pointer for a six-point Cabot lead, but eStem scored the next six to tie the game with 5:22 remaining.
Hill got a putback and Duncan sank a running floater to give Cabot a 43-39 lead and force eStem’s final timeout with 4:23 remaining in the game. Langston scored out of the break for the Mets, but the Panthers would score the next nine-straight to seal the victory.
Southerland started the run with a pair of free throws. After eStem failed to convert a shot attempt and a putback attempt, Ferguson got the rebound and was fouled. He hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 2:38 for a six-point Cabot lead. The Mets then threw the ball away and Southerland found Logan Gilbertson cutting to the basket for an easy layup and a 49-41 lead.
After an eStem miss, Gilbertson got the rebound and was fouled. He also hit both ends of a 1-and-1 trip to the line to give the Panthers their biggest lead of the game at 51-41 with 90 seconds left to play.
Langston was called for a player control foul on the ensuing possession and Brown was hit with a technical for running onto the court to challenge the call. Southerland made 1 of 2 technical free throws for an 11-point Cabot lead with 1:12 remaining.
Langston scored as time expired to set the final margin. He led all scorers and rebounders with 21 points and eight boards, while Clark came off the bench to add 13 for the Mets. Southerland led Cabot with 11 points, and was the only Panther in double figures, though eight different Panthers scored.
“Garrett Rowe did not have a very good game, and if you’ve seen us you know he’s been a big leader for us,” Bridges said. “So one thing I was very proud of was that we got this win largely without him. They’re a good team. (Langston) was the best player on the floor tonight, but we played good team basketball, and that’s what it’s going to take for us to be successful.”