Friday, December 30, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot boys hold back War Eagles

Leader sports editor

RUSSELLVILLE – A sloppy game in its entirety, the Cabot Panthers did just enough to pull off a 51-48 win over J.A. Fair Thursday in the semifinal round of the Hoops for Hunger tournament at RHS.

The Panthers never trailed and the War Eagles only pulled even once after the game’s first basket, but Cabot could never put the game away.

That wasn’t because there weren’t opportunities. Cabot led by as many as eight on six occasions, and led by double figures three times. Each time JAF rallied to get back into the game.

The tournament was played with two 16-minute halves and a 35-second shot clock, but that didn’t help either team coming out of the gate. Cabot scored the first points of the game with 13:30 left in the half when Matt Stanley took a pass from Bobby Joe Duncan underneath the basket.

Duncan then got the rim himself for a 4-0 Cabot lead with 12 minutes to go. Fair did not get on the scoreboard until the 11:30 mark.

Cabot led 6-4 when Duncan got a steal and dished out his third assist that led to a thunderous transition dunk by Stanley. Shortly afterward, Logan Gilbertson made it 10-4, but Fair rallied back to tie the game at 13-13 with 6:45 left in the half.

Cabot then went on an 8-0 run with Stanley and Jarrod Barnes hitting 3-pointers while Gilbertson added a short jumper to make it 21-13 with 5:30 left in the half, but the Panthers managed just two points the rest of the way.

Fair scored five in a row to make it 21-18 with three minutes left, and a Stanley putback was the only two points scored by either team until halftime.

Fair scored first to start the second half, but Cabot went on a 7-0 run to take a 30-20 lead with 13:10 left in the game. Fair then came right back with six unanswered points thanks to a series of Cabot turnovers. War Eagle post man Kris Bankston scored four during the run, all from point-blank range. Guard Cedric Christopher added the last bucket of the run on a finger roll lay-in with 11:35 left.

Duncan then got the rim for Cabot before Barnes got a steal. He missed his layup, but Duncan was there for the follow, and made it a 3-point play when he was fouled.

In just 25 seconds, the lead was back up to nine for the Panthers, but 75 seconds after that, Fair was back to within five.

Gilbertson then hit a 3-pointer and another Fair turnover led to a transition layup by Duncan that made it 40-30 with 9:00 left, but Fair was not yet ready to go away.

Khyron Gilbert scored four-straight points and Stafford added a 3-point play to make it 40-37 with 6:28 left.

With 3:15 remaining, Daevon Bankston’s short jumper made it 43-31, and that’s as close as the War Eagles (8-3) would get the rest of the way.

Barnes was fouled with 3:07 to play and made both ends of a one-and-one trip the line. Stafford then missed the front end of a one-and-one for Fair, and Duncan’s runner with 2:10 to play put the Panthers up by six.

Fair scored on the ensuing possessions, and two more possessions at 47-43, but couldn’t convert either time.

Cabot, meanwhile, did a poor job of running time off the clock. Duncan took a quick 3-pointer that didn’t go in. Stanley then threw the ball away trying to make a no-look pass, but Cabot caught a break.

Daevon Bankston went to corral the loose ball from Stanley’s errant throw, and bounced it off his foot and out of bounds. Fair was forced to foul and Stanley made both free throws with 37 seconds left to make it 49-43.

Christopher scored and Fair called timeout, but Gilbertson made two free throws to make it 51-45 with seven seconds remaining to put the game away. Stafford added a 3-pointer at the buzzer to set the final margin.

Stanley led Cabot with 21 points and added eight rebounds. Gilbertson had 12 points and eight rebounds while Duncan had 9 points and eight rebounds.

Kris Bankston led the War Eagles with 12 points. Daevon Bankston had 11 points and nine rebounds and Stafford finished with 10 points.

Cabot (10-1) had an easier time of it in the first round on Wednesday. The Panthers played a roaring pace in the first half and led 48-30, then clamped down on defense to give up just six points in the second half of a 77-36 victory.

Stanley posted a double-double in that victory with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Gilbertson added 12 again for the Panthers.

Cabot played Pottsville in the championship game Friday night after Leader deadlines. Look for details of that matchup in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.