Tuesday, March 03, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers get tourney host first

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers have been on a tear since their last loss all the way back on Jan. 20. They beat two of the highest-ranked teams in the state and earned a share of the 7A/6A-East Conference title. For all that they get the No. 3 seed, are the only conference champions to not get a first-round bye, and have to play their first-round state tournament game against host school Springdale Har-Ber. The Lady Panthers and Lady Wildcats are scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. today.

“They’re pretty good and we have to play them at home so that will be tough,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder.

Still, Cabot enters the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the state. Ball pressure on defense, transition offense and good ball movement in the half-court sets has been key to Cabot’s success. There’s also been more and more effective contribution from the bench during the recent run.

“Our kids are playing hard and playing well,” Crowder said. “We’re excited about that going into this thing, we just hope it will continue. Har-Ber is good.”

The Lady Wildcats will be bigger than Cabot, but not something the Lady Panthers haven’t dealt with, and overcome, before. North Little Rock and Little Rock Central, Cabot’s conference co-champions, are far bigger than Cabot, and Cabot beat them both in the last three weeks.

But size is about the only similarity between Har-Ber and those other two teams. The Lady Wildcats’ style of play is different and they’re not as athletic as the East teams.

“There’s nobody we’ve played that even resembles Har-Ber,” Crowder said. “So that’ll be a challenge. They like an up-tempo game, too, but our league is so athletic I don’t think it’s going to be like what we’ve seen. They’re pretty big. They shoot it very well and have a really good post player. They have the whole package.”

Har-Ber (20-9, 8-6) enters the tournament having lost four of its last five games. It lost four-straight before closing the season with a 64-48 road win at Rogers Heritage. Before that, they lost 66-52 at home to top-ranked Fort Smith Northside, 66-57 in overtime at FS Southside, 50-36 at home to second-seeded Fayetteville and 69-60 at home to three seed Bentonville.