Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls stave off Devils’ run

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers picked up an important conference win on Friday, beating West Memphis 62-55 in a 7A/6A-East matchup at Panther Arena. Cabot’s pressure did its damage early in the game. The Lady Panthers got seven steals and forced 15 West Memphis turnovers in the first half as they built a 29-16 lead by halftime.

The Lady Blue Devils jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead, but Cabot closed the first quarter on an 11-0 run, sparked by guards Leighton Taylor and Danielle McWilliams at the front of the full-court press.

Taylor started Cabot’s run after grabbing a defensive rebound and dribbling the length of the court for a layup. McWilliams then got a steal at midcourt and dished to Taylor for another layup that tied the game. Taylor then got a steal and her third-straight bucket for Cabot’s first lead. After a West Memphis miss, McWilliams sank a 3-pointer and Alyssa Hamilton finished the quarter with a pair of free throws for a 13-6 Lady Panther lead.

The Lady Panthers (14-4, 2-1) also scored the first five points of the second quarter before West Memphis finally broke its scoring drought. The Lady Blue Devils went from 5:22 of the first quarter to 4:22 of the second quarter without a point. When they finally scored it made the score 18-8, but Cabot continued to stretch its lead, mostly from the foul line.

The Lady Panthers shot 16 foul shots in the second quarter. Josie Vanoss shot half of those, and made seven of them.

In the second half, West Memphis guard Alexis Hamlet put her team on her back and mounted a furious rally. Hamlet averages about 20 points per game, but scored 24 in the second half alone after a quiet, four-point first half.

West Memphis (11-5, 1-1) pulled to within 42-34 late in the third quarter, but Taylor found Hamilton open underneath the basket for a layup at the buzzer, pushing Cabot’s lead back into double digits.

Hamlet got an old-fashioned 3-point play to start the fourth period, to pull her team as close as it had been since the 11-0 run put Cabot up 13-6 in the first quarter, but West Memphis struggled to get any closer.

The margin stayed between seven and 10 points for the next five minutes. The Lady Panthers went through a streak of missed free throws, including the front end of a 1-and-1, but each time West Memphis had the opportunity to close the gap, Cabot’s defense came through.

Finally, with two minutes remaining, Hamlet got a steal and a layup to make it 57-52, and had three possessions to get closer, but managed just one free throw. The Lady Panthers turned it over soon after Hamlet’s layup, but Blue Devil Amesha Hamlet threw up a wild shot that clanged off the bottom of the rim and McWilliams got the rebound.

West Memphis fouled Hamilton, who missed both free throws with 58 seconds remaining. Cabot sent WMHS point guard Sable Greer to the line eight seconds later. She made the first free throw to make it 57-53. She missed the second but got her own rebound. She then threw the ball away on a skip pass to give Cabot possession.

West Memphis fouled McWilliams who made 1 of 2 free throws. Hamlet got the rebound and found center Lashala Sain wide open underneath the basket, but Sain missed the shot. McWilliams got the rebound and found, running in front of the defense for an easy transition layup that made it 60-53 and sealed the game.

Despite struggling from the line for a brief stretch in the fourth quarter, Cabot finished the game hitting 31 of 42 attempts while West Memphis made 12 of 17.

Vanoss led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 18 points, with 14 coming at the foul line. Hamilton added 17 for Cabot while Taylor scored 10. McWilliams finished with eight points, and added five steals, four rebounds and four assists.

Greer was second behind Alexis Hamlet’s 28 points, adding 16 for the Lady Blue Devils.

Both teams took poor care of the ball. Cabot had 20 turnovers while West Memphis had 21, and the Lady Panthers won the rebounding battle 25-21, with Anna Sullivan leading all players with nine boards.