Tuesday, November 24, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot defense leading to big wins

Leader sports editor

Two games have been played and two mercy rules enacted for the Cabot boys so far in this young basketball season. Last Tuesday Cabot went to Little Rock and beat Catholic 54-24, then handled Fort Smith Southside 61-27 at home on Friday.

While big wins are great, Panther coach Jerry Bridges said mercy-ruling teams is not the objective.

“We’ve been stressing defense in practice and I’m proud of how my kids have responded,” said Bridges. “We’re working well together and trying to get better on defense.

“I feel like we have a more all-around consistent shooting team this year than we’ve had in the past, but that shot can still sometimes abandon you. If you learn to consistently give that effort on defense, you can be in a lot of games even if the shots aren’t falling. That’s what I’ve seen so far and that’s what I’m most proud of right now.”

Cabot’s defense was stellar from the outset on Friday. The Rebels didn’t score for the first seven minutes of the game. Rebel guard Darrian Mays got a steal and a layup with a minute left in the first quarter, but Cabot’s lead was still double digits at 12-2.

Junior Chandler Casteel came off the bench to score all six of his points in the first quarter, leading the Panthers to their big early advantage.

Mays got another steal and found teammate Alex Keller under the basket. Keller hit the shot, was fouled and made the free throw, completing a quick 5-0 run. But that was about the end of any and all Southside highlights.

Cabot opened the second quarter with a 6-0 run. Panther post player Matt Stanley blocked back-to-back Southside shots inside the paint. The Rebels got the loose ball both times, but Cabot’s Christian Weir got a steal and a layup to make it 18-5 and force a timeout with 6:30 left in the second quarter.

A minute later, Cabot forced a 10-second backcourt violation and Jalen Brown followed that with a 3-pointer to make it 23-7. Making matters worse for the Rebels, their leading scorer, Tyson Mahoney, picked up his third foul with 3:18 left in the half, and his fourth with 58 seconds remaining.

Cabot took a 32-12 lead into halftime, and put together another big run early in the third.

Point guard Bobby Jo Duncan got a rebound and drove all the way into the lane before stopping and hitting a 12-foot jump shot for a 34-12 lead. He added a 3-pointer minutes later. Another Southside turnover turned into a fast break that saw Logan Gilbertson miss a layup, only for Stanley to follow with a thunderous dunk as the ball came off the front of the rim.

Another Rebel turnover turned into a putback by Hunter Southerland and a 41-14 lead. Southside (2-1) called timeout with 4:26 left in the third quarter and Bridges went to his bench. Cabot led 47-21 going into the fourth, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Brown and Southerland invoked the mercy rule at 53-21 with 6:30 remaining in the game.

“I’m pleased with how unselfish we are,” Bridges said. “If people in the stands will keep cheering loud for our team, I want them to keep being unselfish.”

The head Panther has almost everyone back from last year’s team. He was pleased with how the team played over the summer and says every single player has gotten better, but he singled out two plays in particular.

“I’m very pleased with Bobby Jo Duncan,” Bridges said. “One of his biggest improvements is, he’s gotten to understand me better and the things I need from my point guard. He’s playing very well right now and that’s a big deal for a coach, to sort of have an extension of himself out there on the floor running things for you.

“And I’m proud of Chandler Casteel. He’s my most improved player. I told him one day he may be surprised at the things he’s doing out there, but I’m not because I’ve seen how hard he’s worked to get better at those things. I’m very proud of him.”

Ladies darken twinkletown

The Lady Panthers finished the Heavenly Hoops Classic in third place after beating Star City 60-41 Saturday at Mount St. Mary. The Lady Bulldogs actually jumped all over Cabot early and took a 16-11 lead into the second quarter. Cabot’s pressure defense started to get the best of the perennial 4A powerhouse in the second quarter. The Lady Panthers outscored Star City 22-8 and took a 33-24 lead into halftime. The Lady Bulldogs never got any closer.

Seniors Leighton Taylor and Anna Sullivan led Cabot with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

The Cabot girls and boys hosted Conway last night at Panther Arena. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.