Friday, December 09, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers seize control in third

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers weren’t sharp, but still didn’t struggle much with the Catholic Rockets on Wednesday in their first game of the Pre-Holiday Classic at Panther Arena.

The defending Class 7A state champions committed 13 turnovers in the first half, but cruised in the second half to a 61-26 victory.

“We didn’t play very good tonight, especially in the first half,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “Our schedule has been so sporadic we haven’t been able to get into much of a rhythm, but we still have to be better than this. Look (pointing at the championship team portrait hanging in the arena) that’s over with, and we have to understand that. It got better in the second half. We platooned a lot this game trying to find some depth. But we just have to better. I can’t say I’m pleased with this game, offensively.”

Both teams committed three turnovers in the first two minutes and both teams stumbled and fumbled to an 8-2 Cabot lead by the end of first quarter.

The Panthers got things rolling momentarily early in the second quarter. Logan Gilbertson scored four quick points while Matt Stanley and Jarrod Barnes each added a basket as Cabot pulled out to a 16-2 advantage with 5:30 left in the half. But that margin was down to 21-8 by halftime, despite Catholic not scoring a single field goal in the second period. The Rockets only managed one basket the whole first half.

Catholic (0-4) then scored the first four points of the third quarter to get within nine, but Cabot took over from there. Barnes and Jalen Brown got back-to-back transition baskets after steals, and Gilbertson scored on a putback for a 27-12 lead.

Bridges replaced all five starters at the 5:32 mark, but back-to-back turnovers brought the first team back onto the floor.

The lead hit 20 points for the first time on a 3-pointer by point guard Bobby Joe Duncan. After a defensive stop, Duncan made another from long range to put the Panthers in front 37-14 with three minutes left in the third quarter.

Bridges put the second five in again at that point, and they took a 43-20 lead into the fourth quarter.

Duncan’s third 3-pointer made it 49-20 with 6:36 left in the game, and Cabot had seven possessions with a 28- or 29-point lead before it reached the 30-point mercy rule margin. Noah Allgood’s transition layup with 3:19 invoked the mercy rule at 54-23.

Ten different Panthers scored. Duncan led the way with 11 while Stanley scored 10.

Cabot’s defense held Catholic to just 14.3 percent from the floor on 6 of 42 shooting. The Rockets made 12 of 22 free-throw attempts and were 2 for 14 from 3-point range.

The Panthers were 26 of 53 overall, including 5 of 16 from outside. They made 5 of 10 free throws and outrebounded Catholic 33-17.

Cabot (5-1) played Magnolia last night after Leader deadlines, and will play the event’s final game at 6 p.m. tonight against White Hall. Look for details of those games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

The Panthers are scheduled to host former rival Jacksonville for the first time in several years on Friday.