Friday, March 04, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers whip Springdale

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers have been a second-half basketball team all season long, and it never came in handier than in their 55-51 win over Springdale in the quarterfinals of the Class 7A state tournament at Panther Arena. In front of a packed house on Friday, the Panthers overcame a terrible offensive start and an 11-point halftime deficit to avenge an earlier loss to the Bulldogs.

“The first time we played them, one thing I remember is they whipped us in every facet of the game,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “But hey, it’s state tournament play. One thing I talked to my guys about, bring your level of intensity up real high. First half I think it took us a little time to get to that level. Sometimes that bye is not what it’s cracked up to be. I was just glad we were at home in our home gym.”

Springdale led 29-18 at halftime, but Cabot dominated the third quarter when it extended its defense and began picking up the ball in the backcourt. At one point, Springdale turned the ball over on six-straight possessions as Cabot slowly climbed back into the game. The Bulldogs also let their frustration show, fouling hard after the last couple of turnovers, including one called flagrant foul and two others that could’ve been.

Cabot’s Hunter Southerland scored the first five points of the second half before the two teams traded 3-pointers that made the score 32-26.

Cabot’s Christian Weir came off the bench and forced the first of the six turnovers, and Springdale’s Kyler Mahar tackled Matt Stanley on the fast break.

Hunter Southerland made two free throws after the flagrant foul was called to pull Cabot to within four with 4:55 left in the third.

Bobby Joe Duncan then got a steal and layup for Cabot. Two more Springdale turnovers turned into a pair of 1 of 2 trips to the line for Cabot that tied the game at 32 with 2:48 left in the third quarter.

On Springdale’s next possession, Bulldog forward Towayne Bobo was called for shoving Garrett Rowe under the basket as the ball was being brought up the floor. On the ensuing possession, Jalen Brown was knocked to the ground by Mahar while penetrating toward the basket, and knocked down both free throws to give the Panthers their first lead of the game with 1:54 left in the third.

Right after the free throws, Brown got a steal and was fouled again, and again made both free throws for a four-point Cabot lead.

Springdale’s David Carachure broke the Cabot run with a layup in the halfcourt set, but Cabot scored the last six points of the quarter. Brown was knocked down again by Mahar, this time after drilling a 3-pointer that made it 39-34 with 45 seconds left. He missed the free throw, but Rowe got the rebound and Southerland hit another 3-pointer at the buzzer to finish off a 24-5 third-quarter and put the Panthers up 42-34 heading into the fourth.

“You have to make baskets to extend your defense,” Bridges said. “We had to do something to get us going. That’s not our character to extend our defense, but we had to do something just to try to get energy. When you’re down 11, we had to play a little faster and try to create more scoring opportunities.”

Springdale didn’t go away quietly. When Bulldog center Ishine McFarlane stepped out and nailed his third 3-pointer of the game, it pulled his team to within 51-49 with 1:12 remaining in the game.

Things got worse for Cabot when Brown missed two free throws with 38 seconds left, but Springdale made some crucial mistakes down the stretch. On the ensuing possession, Duncan sunk down to double up Ishine after an entry pass and stripped the ball away. He dived for it in the corner and got up dribbling. Instead of defending, several Springdale players let Duncan dribble past them as they argued for a traveling call. He passed to Logan Gilbertson who hit a layup with 16 seconds left.

Duncan fouled Carachure with 10 seconds to go and he made both free throws to make it 53-51, and Cabot called timeout. Then came Springdale’s next big mistake. As Cabot set up for the inbound play under the Springdale basket, the Bulldog defense completely lost Cabot’s Matt Stanley as he broke to the other end of the floor. Duncan threw a court-length pass over the defense and Stanley got a wide-open dunk with seven seconds left to set the final margin.

Southerland led all scorers with 17 points while Ishine led Springdale with 13.

Cabot plays tonight in the late semifinal game at 8:30 p.m. against the winner of last night’s late game between Fayetteville and Bryant.