Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot boys finish summer schedule on a positive note

Leader sportswriter

Cabot High School held its final team basketball camp of the summer last Thursday at Panther Arena, and head coach Jerry Bridges is pleased with the way his versatile group closed summer play.

Bryant and Watson Chapel were the other schools on hand Thursday, and the Panther varsity unit beat both teams in a pair of exhibition games. Cabot beat the Hornets 36-26 and won comfortably against Watson Chapel, and did so without some key players.

A couple of the Panther starters have been out of action for all or a good portion of the summer because of injuries, and two other starters weren’t present Thursday because they were playing AAU ball out of state.

“I was pleased,” said Bridges of his team. “We were without quite a few people, so it gave me a chance to see what all of our other ones could do, and I was very pleased with our efforts.

“Chandler Casteele’s had a good summer. He’s really improved his game. Sebastian Zulch has really improved, so it’s good to see them step up. All five of my seniors that night – Hunter Southerland, Phillip Wynne, Sawyer Stalnaker, Chandler Casteele and Sebastian Zulch, I was really proud of them.

“I started them as a unit and they did a lot of good things. It’s good when you’ve got some seniors that you feel like are going to give you some playing time, whether they’re coming off the bench or starting, and you have confidence in them, and I saw some good things from all five of those seniors.”

Bridges also gave credit for the way his underclassmen played Thursday. Bridges has been platooning a number of underclassmen into these exhibition games throughout the summer in order to develop his depth. He was also pleased with how his group performed defensively in the two wins.

“I’m just pleased with how everybody played,” Bridges said, “and really, defensively, I thought we really played well both games. I’m pleased with the depth I think we’re going to have this year. I feel like it’s been a really good summer.”

Bridges was already excited about the experienced team he had coming back this year, but the addition of 6-foot-8 junior forward Matt Stanley, a Vilonia transfer who joined the team earlier this summer, has given the coach more reason to be excited about this year’s group.

The only thing the Panthers really need to do now, though, is get healthy, which is why some of the Panthers’ starters, like seniors Garrett Rowe and Jared Dixon, have been out of action.

Dixon hasn’t played any this summer because he’s been recovering from ACL surgery, while Rowe was out Thursday because of a recent knee injury that Bridges hopes is minor.

“Getting someone like Matt Stanley that comes in, you know, I’m not going to lie, that’s a good pick-up to add to what we have coming back, because I really liked the group I had,” Bridges said.

“Our main thing now, we’ve got to make sure Garrett Rowe is going to be OK and get him well. Jared Dixon’s doing well in his rehab, recovering from ACL surgery. So hopefully by October he’ll be ready to join in, too.

“It’s about getting bodies better right now and doing some skill work in the gym and lifting three days a week and getting the ball in our hands four days a week.”