Wednesday, January 07, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers acquit selves nicely in Texas

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers took fourth place in the 32-team Spring Creek Barbecue Invitational basketball tournament last week in Mansfield, Texas, winning their first three games to advance to the semifinals before dropping the final two games to settle for fourth place.

Most of the tournament featured teams from Texas’ largest classification in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Played at four different sites in the Mansfield school district, Cabot opened at Mansfield High against highly-ranked Cedar Hill, a Class 6A school just minutes from Mansfield.

The team features highly touted Joyner Holmes. Major Division I coaches from all over the country were on hand to watch the 6-foot-3 Holmes lead Cedar Hill against the Lady Panthers, but Cabot never let her get going. The No. 2 rated player in Texas finished with just 10 points and four rebounds as the Lady Panthers prevailed 56-48.

The Lady Panthers’ pressure defense forced 26 Cedar Hill turnovers as Cabot raced out to a 22-9 lead in the first quarter. The local team was able to reverse that trend in the second quarter, forcing several Cabot turnovers. The Lady Panthers finished the game with 19 turnovers, but still held to a 34-27 lead at halftime after Cedar Hill got as close as 27-24 in the second quarter.

Cabot built its margin back to double digits early in the third quarter when back-to-back buckets by CoCo Calhoon and Alyssa Hamilton made it 39-29. Holmes answered moments later with just her second bucket of the game, but Cabot scored the next eight straight to take a commanding 47-31 lead.

Victoria Jackson and Holmes combined for the final four points of the third quarter, leaving Cabot with a 12-point lead going into the final frame. Hamilton added to that lead with the first bucket of the fourth quarter, but Holmes and teammate Dominique Dawson scored four in a row to cut the margin to 10.

Cabot’s ball movement continued to create open looks for Hamilton, who answered each of Cedar Hill’s next two buckets.

Robin Beck drained a 3-pointer with two minutes left to pull the local team to within eight, but her team wouldn’t score again until Beck drained another trey at the buzzer to set the final margin.

Hamilton led Cabot with 18 points and eight rebounds while Danielle McWilliams had 14 points and Anna Sullivan 10 for Cabot. Guard Leighton Taylor finished with six points, seven assists and three steals.

Cenecia Newman led Cedar Hill with 13 points, including 10 in the first half. Beck and Holmes each finished with 10.

After that 11:30 a.m. start, Cabot moved on to face Timberview, a Mansfield school, at 8:15 p.m. that same night, and walked away with a 42-31 victory. Cabot led just 21-20 at halftime after Timberview opened the game scoring the first seven points. The Lady Panthers continued to slowly assume control in the second half, holding Timberview to just four points in the fourth quarter to win going away in the slower-paced matchup.

Cabot relied again on ball movement in the more half-court game, and Hamilton and Sullivan led the way. Hamilton finished with 16 points while Sullivan added 15. Hamilton also had six rebounds and three steals.

McWilliams added seven points, five rebounds and two steals for Cabot.

On Wednesday, Cabot played the quarterfinals against MacArthur High of Irving, Texas, and won 45-42. Unlike the first two games, Cabot found itself still trailing at halftime on game three. MacArthur jumped out to a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter after scoring the game’s first six points. Cabot battled back with a 7-2 run to pull within one point, but MacArthur got hot from outside, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to close the first period.

Cabot trailed 23-15 with three minutes left in the half before closing the second period with a 7-0 run. Sullivan made 1 of 2 free throws to open the run and Taylor hit a pair of foul shots to make it 23-18. Josie Vanoss scored for Cabot after a MacArthur turnover and Sullivan scored after a defensive stop and rebound by Hamilton.

The run became 9-0 when Calhoon scored the first bucket of the second half to give Cabot its first lead of the game, but Alyson Gomez got it right back for MacArthur. The lead changed hands six times in the third quarter before MacArthur went on an 8-1 run to take a 35-29 lead with seconds left in the third period.

Cabot closed the period with a bucket by Hamilton, and then outscored MacArthur 14-7 in the fourth quarter. The Lady Panthers still trailed 40-37 with just less than three minutes remaining, but they closed the game with an 8-2 run to seal the win.

In the semifinals, Cabot fell 47-38 to Bowie High of Arlington, then lost 50-27 to South Grand Prairie in the third-place game. Prestonwood Christian Academy of Plano beat Bowie 64-45 in the tournament championship.