Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers take final game into triple-OT

Leader sportswriter

A pair of Panthers put on one great show in the finale of the Cabot Pre-Holiday Classic, but it was the visiting Panthers from Benton that beat the host Panthers 75-72 in triple overtime Saturday at Panther Arena in Cabot.

Cabot jumped out to a four-point lead in the third extra period, but Benton’s Clay Anderson scored seven in a row to put his team in front for good.

The second overtime period ended with the score knotted up at 66-66, and Cabot opened the third OT period with four free-throws that gave it a 70-66 lead.

That’s when Anderson, who led all scorers with 24 points, scored his seven unanswered to give Benton a 73-70 lead with just 18 seconds remaining. Jarrod Barnes answered for Cabot, scoring the home team’s final points on a transition layup with 10 seconds to play, which trimmed the Benton lead to one.

Cabot had to foul, and Benton got the ball to Anderson on the inbound pass, and after he was fouled by Cabot center Jared Dixon, he sank two free throws to make it a three-point game, which also set the final score in the process.

On the game’s final possession, Cabot pushed the ball past half court and got it to Dixon in the corner. Dixon was the only Cabot player with a decent look from the perimeter, and as the final seconds ticked away, the 6-6 center put up a 3-point shot from the corner, but it fell short, giving Benton the hard-fought win.

Benton (6-3) graduated some quality players from last year’s team that won the 2013 Pre-Holiday Tournament, but had three transfers join the team this school year, and that’s helped fill some of the void left from a season ago.

None of those three players, including 6-foot-9 center Jake Scoggins, led the team in scoring Saturday against Cabot (4-2), but all three were deep contributors for Benton, who finished the Classic with a perfect 3-0 record, while Cabot finished 2-1.

“I knew this was going to be a good game,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “They’re a good team, but, you know, they’ve got three new people they didn’t have this summer.

“I think two came from McClellan and one came from Benton Harmony Grove. So maybe I need to coach AAU basketball, too, and recruit me some. I don’t care if you put that in there, because I’m tired of it, but I’m proud of my guys.

“They could’ve quit, laid down at the end of regulation, but they stuck through the extra minutes. Both teams had opportunities in all the overtimes to maybe win it. They shot better free throws than us. We missed a few here and there and we had some other looks that if they fall it would’ve been a little different.

“But, man, it was just a great game. I’m not down on my kids a bit. As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite. I feel better about us after tonight’s game than after last night’s (Friday’s) game.”

The first quarter was back and forth throughout, but Cabot went into the second quarter with a 14-13 lead. The host Panthers opened the second quarter with a 4-0 run to further their lead, but Benton battled back and eventually tied the game at 20-20.

An inside bucket by Hunter Southerland and a 3-pointer by Garrett Rowe, though, gave Cabot a 25-20 lead, and the host team stayed in front for the rest of the half and led 31-25 at halftime.

On the first possession of the second half, Southerland sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the hosts’ lead to 34-25, but the visiting Panthers responded in a big way and closed the third quarter with a 19-5 run to lead 44-39 at the start of the fourth.

Cabot, though, outscored Benton 13-8 in the fourth quarter, which led to a 52-52 tie at the end of regulation. Both teams scored seven points apiece in the first overtime period, sending the game to a second OT with the score 59 all.

Cabot finished Saturday’s Classic finale 27 of 48 from the floor for 56 percent. Benton made 24 of 53 total shots for 45 percent. From the free-throw line, Benton made 18 of 26 attempts for 69 percent. Cabot made 11 of 17 attempts from the stripe for 65 percent.

The host Panthers dominated the boards, winning the rebounding battle 28-15, but the visiting Panthers won the turnover category, committing 15 to Cabot’s total of 22.

Rowe led Cabot with 23 points Saturday, and was a board shy of a double-double. Southerland finished with 22 points, and Bobby Joe Duncan had 10.

In Friday night’s game, Cabot beat Little Rock Catholic by the final score of 45-37 to get its second win in the Classic. The score was tied at 16-16 at halftime, but the Panthers outscored the Rockets 29-21 in the second half to secure the victory.

Barnes led all scorers in that game with 13 points. He was the only Panther to finish in double figures scoring.

The Panthers will resume action on Friday and Saturday in the White Hall Classic at Pine Bluff.