Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot tops Vilonia in final

Leader sports editor

One of the best quarters of basketball the Cabot Panthers have played this season was the last one quarter of the Pre-Holiday Tournament that wrapped up Saturday at Panther Arena.

In the championship game of the boys’ tournament, Cabot turned a five-point deficit into an eight-point victory, beating Vilonia 58-50.

Cabot scored 33 points in the first three quarters combined, but four steals by Jalen Brown, dominant offensive rebounding and stifling defense turned the tide of the game in the fourth quarter.

“I just want to brag on that possession on defense,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “They threw it in down six with 44 seconds left and I don’t think they got a look. That’s one of the things we talk about a lot, and one of the things we want to hang our hat on, and I thought it was one of the best possessions of defense we’ve played all year.”

The possession ended with a turnover and an easy basket at the other end to set the final margin.

The Panthers’ dominance in the fourth quarter started early. Vilonia led 38-31 before Bobby Joe Duncan hit a short jumper to end the third. Jarrod Barnes went baseline and hit a reverse layup to cut the margin to three just seconds into the fourth. The Eagles were then called for an offensive foul away from the ball, and Cabot got three offensive rebounds before Matt Stanley was fouled and went to the line. He hit both foul shots to make it 38-37.

Vilonia’s Jacob Berry was fouled, but he missed both free throws. With 6:38 left in the game, Cabot’s Garrett Rowe made a 3-pointer to give the Panthers their first lead since the 5:51 mark of the third quarter.

Brown got a steal, but missed a 3-pointer. Barnes then came flying through the lane for a putback that put the Panthers up 42-38 and completed an 11-0 run.

Vilonia point guard Austin Newell cut it to a one-point game with a 3-pointer with 5:25 remaining. Cabot missed two shots on its end of the floor, but got two offensive rebounds before Barnes was fouled. He made one of two to make the score 43-41. Vilonia center Charles Thomas answered quickly to tie the game with 4:55 left.

Cabot then went on a 7-0 run in just 43 seconds, and Vilonia never got within six points again.

Barnes hit another baseline runner and Brown got another steal. He missed the shot, but Logan Gilbertson got the putback to make it 47-43. Brown then got another steal and missed again, but this time Rowe was there for the putback and was fouled. His free throw gave Cabot a 50-43 lead with 4:12 left in the game.

Bridges commended Brown on his defense, especially late in the game.

“He’s a great little shooter and right now he’s pressing, but he stays in the game because he Ds up,” Bridges said. “Here soon he’ll have a good shooting game and he’s going to break out. But I’m proud of that little rascal and his defense. He’s got grit about him.”

Brown and Barnes each finished the game with five steals, and Barnes had his best offensive game so far this season with 14 points.

“Barnes is a DI athlete,” Bridges said. “And he’s starting to get a little basketball groove about him. I love the kid. He’s matured so much from last year it’s not even funny. But he does things you can’t coach. I’m not going to lie. I wish I could take credit for it but I can’t.”

In addition to Barnes’ team high 14, Rowe came off the bench to score 10. Stanley added nine and Duncan eight for the Panthers. Thomas was the game’s leading scorer with 15 points. Hayden Patterson came off the bench when Vilonia’s leading scorer Josh Greer got into early foul trouble and scored 11 for the Eagles.

To get to the championship game, Cabot hammered White Hall 73-53 on Friday. The Panthers scored 31 points in the fourth quarter to break open a six-point game.

“Two nights in a row we finished strong,” Bridges said. “I’m proud to see that because that’s what it’s going to take in 7A ball. We’re about to find out what 7A ball is all about later this week.”

Stanley had his best game of the season so far against the Bulldogs. He hit 12 of 13 shot attempts and finished with season highs 29 points and 13 rebounds. Duncan added 14 points and had seven assists.

Benton won the third-place game 47-42 over White Hall. Conway beat Catholic 72-58 in the consolation game.

The Panthers (6-1) take part in the Wampus Cat Classic at Conway High School this weekend. On Friday, Cabot faces Fayetteville at 7 p.m. The Panthers play the early game on Saturday, tipping off at 11 a.m. against Van Buren.