Tuesday, January 12, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot knocks off NLR in big East matchup

Leader sportswriter

Cabot opened 7A/6A-East Conference play with a win Friday, but it didn’t come easy. The Panthers led after every quarter and held off a late North Little Rock rally to leave Charging Wildcat Arena with a hard-fought 67-61 win.

The defending state champion Charging Wildcats may not be as overwhelmingly talented this year compared to recent years, but there’s still plenty of talent there, and it’s a team that’s definitely better than its 6-7 overall record might indicate.

“North Little Rock’s still good,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges after the game. “They may not have KeVaughn Allen, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a good team. We knew what it was going to be like coming in here, and I was proud of our guys.

“We knew what it was like to be in this position and we knew they were going to make a hard run at us at the end, but we kept our composure.”

Cabot (10-3, 1-0) led 43-35 at the start of the fourth quarter, and upped its lead to double digits on a pair of baskets by junior forward Matt Stanley. With 5:57 remaining, a Logan Gilbertson free throw and transition layup by Hunter Southerland gave the Panthers a 50-37 lead.

North Little Rock (6-7, 0-1), though, battled back and got within five of Cabot’s lead, 54-49, on a B.J. Walker steal that led to a transition layup by leading scorer Adrian Moore. Bridges then called timeout with 2:53 left to play.

After the timeout, Cabot took possession underneath NLR’s goal, and Southerland threw a perfect inbound pass up court to Stanley, who was running up the floor, and Stanley beat his man for a one-on-one basket underneath the goal on Cabot’s end of the floor.

Point guard Bobby Joe Duncan added two free throws with 1:23 remaining, which upped the Panthers’ lead to nine, 58-49. Moore answered with a 3-pointer before Duncan made two more free throws, which made the score 60-52 Cabot with 1:12 remaining.

With just under a minute to play, Moore was fouled on a 3-point attempt, and the senior guard made all three free throws to bring NLR within 62-56 of the Panthers’ lead.

After a Cabot free throw, Moore hit another three to cut Cabot’s lead to 63-59 with 41 seconds left. North Little Rock then fouled sophomore guard Jalen Brown, and Brown made both free throws with 36 seconds remaining.

North Little Rock failed to score on the following possession, and Brown was sent to the line again, where he made two more free throws to put the game out of the Charging Wildcats’ reach.

Brown’s last two free throws made the score 67-59, and with 11 seconds left, NLR’s Desmond Duckworth sank a running floater to set the final score.

Cabot led 13-7 at the end of the first quarter and 29-27 at halftime. In the third quarter, the Panthers made five of their first six shots from the floor and NLR was 2 for 11 shooting in the third quarter. North Little Rock finished the second half 8 for 25 shooting and Cabot was 11 for 17.

Duncan led Cabot with 20 points Friday. Seven of those points came in the fourth quarter, and all of those fourth-quarter points came at the free-throw line, when the Panthers needed them down the stretch.

“I thought little No. 2 for us did a heck of a job,” Bridges said of his junior point guard.

Southerland also scored in double figures for Cabot. He had 12 points. Moore led all scorers with 21 points. He scored 17 of those points in the fourth quarter. Duckworth was the only other Charging Wildcat to score in double figures. He added 12.