Friday, February 06, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Red Panthers defeat Whirlwinds at home

Leader sports editor

With the high school teams taking a week off, Cabot Red freshmen teams took center stage Thursday, hosting Russellville in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference matchup at Cabot Junior High South.

The ninth-grade Panthers and Lady Panthers picked up a boys’ and girls’ split with the Whirlwinds. The Lady Panthers suffered a 23-18 loss while the boys dominated the fourth quarter to win 28-18.

Defense dominated the first quarter of the boys’ game, especially Cabot’s defense. The Panthers (12-9, 4-2) and Whirlwinds each had just four total possessions.

The Panthers managed buckets on two of their possessions while the Whirlwinds went 0 for 7 from the floor, leaving Cabot with a 4-0 lead at the end of the frame.

Neither team scored for nearly two minutes of the second quarter before Russellville finally got on the scoreboard with 4:22 left until halftime. The two teams then traded buckets before Cabot point guard Landon Vaught drove baseline for a layup and was fouled. The free throw made it 9-4 with 2:16 remaining.

Russellville’s ensuing possession was a long one, lasting almost 90 seconds, during which the Whirlwinds got three attempts from the floor and four free throws, missing them all.

After another empty possession for each team, Cabot’s Jared Vance was fouled in the act of shooting just before the buzzer, and sank two free throws to send Cabot into the locker room with an 11-4 lead.

Russellville’s shooting woes ended in the third quarter, at least for a while. The Whirlwinds scored eight-straight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to take a 12-11 lead less than two minutes into the third quarter.

After a timeout by Cabot coach Ron Tucker, Noah Allgood got a putback of a Vance miss from outside to put the Panthers back in front. That was the last bucket by either team for nearly three minutes before Russellville’s Gunner Howerton became the third Whirlwind to hit a 3-pointer in the period with 48 seconds left in the third.

At the other end, Drake Robertson penetrated and dished to Vaught for a layup at the buzzer to tie the game going into the fourth quarter.

Tucker told his players during the break between quarters that the final frame would be theirs. Besides an initial 3-pointer by Ryan Talley, he was right. Talley’s long ball gave Russellville (11-10, 3-3) an 18-15 lead with 5:23 left in the game, but they were the last points the visitors would score. The Panthers closed the game with a 13-0 run, starting just seconds after Talley’s shot when Vance hit from outside to tie the game.

Vance became as much of a force on defense as offense. He got a steal on the next possession and scored on a mid range jumper. He then deflected a swing pass at the top of the key. Vaught caught the deflection and was fouled while shooting the transition layup. He made both foul shots for a four-point Cabot lead.

Howerton then sailed his skip pass over the Cabot defense and the Russellville bench for a turnover. Allgood exacted the price for the turnover with an old-fashioned 3-point play for a 25-18 lead.

With less than two minutes remaining, Russellville was forced to begin fouling and Cabot hit 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch to set the final margin.

Vance finished with a game-high 11 points while Vaught scored seven. Allgood finished with six points and Robertson four for the Panthers.

The Lady Panthers played evenly with the Lady Whirlwinds in the second and fourth quarters. The two teams each scored five points in the second quarter and 10 in the fourth, but Cabot managed just three total points combined in the first and third.

The Lady Panthers (4-17, 1-4) got just one field goal in the first quarter and just a free throw in the third, while Russellville scored four points in each frame.

Cabot’s Allison Laney warmed up and scored six-straight points in the fourth quarter, but so did Russellville’s Samantha Looper. Each time Cabot climbed to within a one-possession margin, Looper drained a 3-pointer for Russellville (11-10, 3-3).

Laney’s six points in the fourth were enough to lead the Lady Panthers. Leslie Roberts and Olivia Alcantara scored three apiece for Cabot. Looper led Russellville with eight.