Tuesday, February 16, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot gets big victory

Leader sports editor

Cabot girls’ basketball coach Carla Crowder reached a milestone Friday when her team gave her the 800th win of her career, and it came at a most opportune time. The Lady Panthers had to beat West Memphis at home to have any chance of making the playoffs, and they did so decisively, 59-38.

Cabot played most of the game in a 1-3-1 zone with senior guard CoCo Calhoon at the top guarding the ball, and she frustrated the West Memphis ball handlers from the outset.

“CoCo played extremely well tonight,” said Crowder. “She’s a smart player and she’s aggressive. She played well defensively and offensively. It was a great effort by everyone. We had to have that one and we played like it. I’m very proud of them.”

The win puts Cabot (16-10, 6-4) in a tie with West Memphis for the third playoff spot from the East Conference, and gives Cabot the tiebreaker in case they remain tied. West Memphis beat Cabot by just two points last month at WMHS.

Cabot is finished with its 7A conference schedule. West Memphis (16-7, 6-4) can still earn the playoff spot, but will have to beat North Little Rock at home on Friday. NLR beat West Memphis 85-80 last month at NLRHS.

The Lady Panthers didn’t shoot well early. Despite forcing 10 turnovers in the first quarter, Cabot only led 14-12 at the end of one period. Calhoon and senior point guard Leighton Taylor each got two steals in the frame, but combined to go 1 for 5 from the floor after the turnovers.

With 50 seconds left in the opening period and the score tied 9-9, Anna Sullivan drove the lane for a layup that also drew a crucial foul. West Memphis’ 6-foot-5 center Lashala Saine picked up her second foul and sat the rest of the half.

The forced turnovers by West Memphis continued to mount in the second period, but Cabot’s shooting got better and the lead grew, albeit slowly at first.

Neither team scored a basket for more than half the period. With 3:30 left in the half, West Memphis coach Sheila Burns called timeout with Cabot leading 21-12. The Lady Panthers had made 7 of 8 free throws while Burns’ Lady Blue Devils had gone 0 for 4 from the floor, 0 for 2 from the line and committed five turnovers.

Right out of the break, Calhoon got her fourth steal, missed a layup, got her own rebound and put it back in for a 23-12 Cabot lead. The Lady Blue Devils threw the ball away again on the inbound pass and Burns called another timeout. The visitors rushed a shot after that break and Calhoon scored at the other end to make it 25-12 with 2:42 left in the first half.

West Memphis got its first points of the quarter with 2:23 remaining when Anquenetta Higgs hit a bucket while being fouled. She missed the free throw, but Cabot turned it over and Niyah Townsend hit a 3-pointer to quickly pull the Lady Blue Devils to within 25-17 with two minutes left.

Cabot closed the half with an 8-2 run that saw Calhoon score the last six in a row. She hit two free throws after the buzzer to give the Lady Panthers a 33-19 lead at the break.

West Memphis extended its man defense to three-quarter court to start the second half, but Cabot sliced through it and extended its lead.

Much like it ended the first half, Cabot opened the second half with an 11-3 run. Taylor hit a 3-pointer with 2:41 left in the third quarter that gave the Lady Panthers a 44-22 lead, but West Memphis made one more run.

The Lady Blue Devils outscored Cabot 8-0 from that point to the end of the quarter to make it 44-30 going into the fourth.

Cabot’s Josie Vanoss put a quick end to any West Memphis hope. After a free throw by Calhoon, Vanoss scored six-straight points on back-to-back three-point plays to put Cabot back up by 21 at 51-30 just two minutes into the fourth quarter.

Calhoon led all scorers with 23 points and also had six steals and six rebounds. Taylor and Sullivan each finished with 11 points.

Sable Greer led West Memphis with 13 points.

Cabot was outstanding from the free-throw line, hitting 26 of 32, and was 19 of 21 going into the fourth quarter.

The Lady Panthers were 16 of 47 from the floor, and just 1 for 5 from 3-point range.

West Memphis outrebounded Cabot 32-21, but only made 4 of 14 free throws and went 15 of 50 from the floor (4 of 8 3-pointers).

Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple congratulated Crowder on win 800, and gave her credit for the victory.

“I missed three practices this week and she had them ready to play,” Ruple said. “She did a great job preparing the team from top to bottom. We won the junior varsity game pretty handily, too, and that’s because of how well Carla prepared them.”