Tuesday, March 01, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers finish strong, ready for state

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot girls capped the regular season with their second victory this season over Searcy on Friday at Panther Arena, beating the Lady Lions in the 7A/6A-East finale 49-33.

Cabot (19-11, 8-6) set the tone from the start with its defense. The Lady Panthers’ 2-3 zone held Searcy (8-19, 2-12) to just two points in the first quarter, and those two points came at the free-throw line.

Searcy went 0 for 11 from the floor in the first eight minutes, while the Lady Panthers scored eight points, four by leading scorer Anna Sullivan, and forced five Searcy turnovers to lead 8-2 at the end of one.

Searcy managed four field goals in the second quarter, but the hosts had six made shots from the floor on 12 attempts, and their lead grew to double digits by halftime, with the score 25-13.

The Lady Panthers’ largest lead of the second quarter was 24-7. The 17-point lead came on a 3-pointer by Sullivan with 2:12 left in the half. Thirty-two seconds later, Sullivan made two free throws, but a Cabot lane violation on the second free throw made it 25-9 Cabot with 1:40 left in the half.

Searcy closed the first half with four unanswered points, setting the halftime margin. Searcy’s Arabriaun Mack and Allie Brown made the first two baskets of the third quarter, which cut the Cabot lead back to single digits, with the score 25-17.

Cabot, however, responded with three-straight baskets while forcing two Searcy turnovers in the process. The first basket was made by Sullivan, and the next two were steals and layups by Josie Vanoss and Leighton Taylor.

Taylor’s steal and transition layup made it 31-17 Cabot, and forced Searcy coach Michelle Birdsong to call timeout with six minutes left in the third. After the timeout, Sullivan scored the next five points on a pair of 2-point buckets and a free throw, and Vanoss sank a pair of free throws with 3:39 left in the period to give the Lady Panthers a 38-19 lead.

With 2:32 left in the quarter, junior center Haley Sobczak got a free throw that upped the hosts’ lead to 20, 39-19. At the end of the quarter, Cabot led 42-24.

Sullivan scored the first five points for Cabot in the fourth quarter. The first basket was a jumper from the free-throw line less than a minute into the period, and the next was a corner three with 4:50 to play, which gave Cabot a 47-26 cushion.

Searcy senior guard Keke Broadway scored the next points with a 3-point play at the 2:01 mark, but Sobczak got a putback with 1:30 remaining to up the Lady Panther lead back to 20, leading 49-29.

Ebonee Whitney added a free throw for Searcy before reserve guard Jessica Mitchell drained a three with 13 seconds remaining, setting the final score.

Cabot finished the game 18 of 46 from the floor for 39 percent. Searcy was 11 of 44 from the floor for 25 percent. From the free-throw line, the Lady Panthers made 9 of 12 attempts and the Lady Lions made 8 of 14 attempts. The hosts outrebounded Searcy 29-23.

Sullivan led all scorers Friday with 20 points. The senior also grabbed six rebounds and had four steals. Vanoss added 10 points for Cabot. Holly Allen scored eight points. Taylor had four points, Sobczak scored three, and CoCo Calhoon and Rachel Allgood scored two apiece.

Whitney led Searcy with eight points. Broadway and Brown added seven points each.

Cabot’s next game will be today at 1 p.m. in the first round of the Class 7A state tournament at Panther Arena. The Lady Panthers enter today’s state tournament as the No. 3 East seed. They’ll play West three seed Springdale. The winner of that game will play at 4 p.m. tomorrow against defending state champion Conway, the No. 1 Central seed.