Friday, February 27, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panther girls get win over Central

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers got another big 7A/6A-East win Thursday night at home, as they knocked off Little Rock Central by the final score of 50-48, and furthered their current win streak to seven games.

Central was the last team to beat Cabot. In that Jan. 20th game in Little Rock, the Lady Tigers beat the Lady Panthers by the final score of 47-38.

Since then, the Lady Panthers have gone a tear, winning seven-straight, including wins over the top two teams in the conference.

Cabot became the first in-state team to beat current No. 1 seed North Little Rock earlier this month, and Central was tied with NLR for the top spot in the conference entering Thursday night’s game with the Lady Panthers.

Cabot’s win over Central on Thursday gives them both two losses in league play. Central, however, holds the tiebreaker, having beat Cabot by a larger margin in their first meeting this season.

The Lady Tigers, though, played NLR last night after deadlines, and another Central loss to NLR would give Cabot, as of now, the outright No. 2 spot in the 7A-East.

A Central win over NLR, however, would put Cabot, NLR and Central in a three-way tie for first as each team would have two losses each in league play. The tiebreakers for that scenario would be decided by head-to-head point differentials.

The first quarter of Thursday’s game was low-scoring, but Cabot had double the points as Central by the end of the quarter, as the Lady Panthers led 8-4.

Central got right back in it, though, at the start of the second quarter, scoring three quick points on an and-one by Bre’Amber Scott 12 seconds into the period.

Scott’s old-fashioned 3-point play made it an 8-7 game, and it was back and forth for the remainder of the half. At the break, the score was tied at 23-23, and that was thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner by Scott.

Cabot improved its shot selection in the second half, and the Lady Panthers did a better job of getting to the free-throw line more frequently – something Central did a slightly better job of in the first two quarters of play.

That strategy helped Cabot take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter, leading 34-32, but Central tied the game at 34-34 on the first possession of the fourth with an inside bucket by Kiara Williams.

Danielle McWilliams answered for Cabot at the 6:12 mark of the fourth quarter by connecting on a short jumper off the glass, which put the Lady Panthers up 36-34.

Cabot’s lead later grew to six, 43-37, and that score was set on a pair of one-and-one free throws by Josie Vanoss with 3:22 remaining.

Central managed to cut its deficit to three, 47-44, with 39 seconds left to play, but it wasn’t long before the Lady Panthers were up by six again.

A McWilliams free throw with 33 tics left and two more free throws by Anna Sullivan with 15.7 seconds left put Cabot up 50-44. Central cleaned up the score on the last possession of the game.

With Cabot’s defense not wanting to foul, Scott was able to sink an easy layup as time expired, setting the final score.

“We were trying to focus on getting to the line and we were trying to focus on not letting them get to the line,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder of the second half, “because in the first half they kept getting to the line.”

From the free-throw line, Cabot made 16 of 27 shots, including 11 of 19 in the second half. Central made 11 of 17 shots from the stripe, including 3 of 7 in the second half.

With the win, the Lady Panthers improved their record to 21-5 overall and 9-2 in conference play. Central’s record dropped to 21-3 overall and 10-2 in conference play.

Considering they’ve now won seven-straight, with wins over two championship-caliber teams, and with the playoffs right around the corner, the Cabot girls could be in line for a lengthy playoff run.

The Lady Panthers have played their best ball of the season these last seven games, and that’s something this team hopes to continue doing well into the playoffs.

“I feel like we’re peaking at the right time,” said Cabot senior center Alyssa Hamilton. “I hope that we can continue this throughout state. I think we’re really starting to mesh and our chemistry is really good right now. So hopefully we can keep that up.”

For the game, Cabot made 16 of 38 shots for 42 percent. The Lady Panthers had eight field goals in each half, but had 24 shot attempts in the first half, and 14 in the second half. Central, for the game, made 17 of 47 shots from the floor for 36 percent.

Cabot went 2 for 7 from 3-point range in the first half, but had just one attempt, a miss, from beyond the arc in the second half. Central made 1 of 7 threes in the first half and 2 of 10 in the second half.

The Lady Panthers won the rebounding battle, 31-17, but the hosts had more turnovers, 20, than the 13 Central committed.

Two different Lady Panthers scored in double figures. McWilliams led Cabot with 11 points – nine of which came in the second half, and Vanoss had 10. Sullivan scored eight points, and Leighton Taylor had seven, while Hamilton had six points and a game-high nine rebounds.

Three different Lady Tigers scored in double figures. Scott and Kamry Orr led all scorers with 14 points each, and Williams added 10.

The Lady Panthers end their season with consecutive conference road games – the first at Jonesboro and the second at Searcy – both of which are winnable games. Look for details of where the Cabot girls will be seeded in next week’s state tournament in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.