Tuesday, January 05, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot closes well at Zebra tourney

Leader sports editor

After a disappointing loss to Forrest City in the first round of the Zebra Invitational, the Cabot Panthers bounced back with a pair of wins to close their action at Pine Bluff High School over the winter break. Cabot beat defending tournament champion Clarendon 73-51 in a fast-pace game on Tuesday in the consolation bracket. On Wednesday, the Panthers successfully slowed the tempo and beat the long and athletic Central Tigers 43-30.

Cabot made 49 percent of its shots from the floor and went 20 of 29 at the free-throw line against Clarendon. The bigger Panthers utilized that size advantage against the Class 2A Lions, who return four of five starters from a team that won its first 33 games last year before being upset in the regionals and failing to make the state tournament.

Three frontcourt players led Cabot in scoring, with junior Matt Stanley leading the way with 20 points. Senior forward Garrett Rowe added 12 and Jared Dixon scored 11 for Cabot.

Cabot got its separation in the second quarter. After taking a 15-12 lead through one period, the Panthers exploded for 26 points in the second quarter and carried a 41-26 lead into halftime.

Shooting didn’t go well for either team on Wednesday. Cabot dominated the first half against its 7A conference foe. The Tigers, who were playing in their second holiday tournament after also competing in and winning the Red Devil Classic, couldn’t get the game into an up-and-down frenzy like it was able to do in wins over North Pulaski and Jacksonville.

Cabot broke Central’s press successfully and was able to score once it was broken. The press break resulted in several buckets near the basket, mostly by Rowe, who finished with a game-high 15 points.

Cabot took a 25-13 lead into halftime, but Central fell back into a zone defense in the second half and Cabot could not hit from outside and bust the zone.

The Tigers held the Panthers to four points in the third quarter, but weren’t hitting at a very high percentage either. Central slowly climbed back to within 29-22 by the end of the third, but as has become a norm for Cabot, the Panthers saved their best quarter for last.

Cabot scored 14 points in the fourth quarter while holding Central to eight. The Tigers tried to climb back into the game from outside, but shots weren’t falling for either team from 3-point range.

Central shot poorly from everywhere. The Tigers were a dismal 11 of 49 (22 percent) from the floor, including 0 for 15 from 3-point range. They also made just 8 of 16 free-throw attempts.

Cabot was also just 50 percent from the foul line (6 of 12) and didn’t shoot very well from the floor either. The Panthers were 18 of 58 overall (32 percent) and just 1 of 14 from 3-point range.

Cabot (9-3) opens conference play in the 7A/6A-East on Friday when it plays a critical road game at North Little Rock.