Tuesday, January 03, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot defense puts an end to Apache streak

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor 

The Cabot Panthers enjoyed an easy final round to win the Hoops for Hunger Tournament at Russellville High School on Friday. The Panthers gave up just nine points in the second half en route to a 73-38 victory over Pottsville at Cyclone Arena.

The Panthers and Apaches played at a pretty fast pace in the first 16-minute half. Pottsville made five of its six 3-pointers in the first half, but Cabot’s inside game proved too much for the Class 4A Apaches.

Pottsville (12-3) defeated Central Arkansas Christian 61-37 in the first round, then handed archrival and tournament host Russellville a 58-48 defense in the semifinals. The Apaches entered the game with Cabot on a 12-game win streak after losing their first two games while part of the team was still playing football.

Despite Pottsville’s strong outside shooting, Cabot still took a 38-29 lead into intermission. Much like they did in their first round win over Clarksville, the Panthers played shut-down defense in the second half, outscoring the Apaches 35-9.

Cabot led Clarksville 38-20 at halftime, and won the second half 29-6.

“I think we’re a little too complacent early in games,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “I’m glad we’re picking it up and playing with more intensity in the second half. And I’d rather be stronger at the end. But what I want to see is us putting together four quarters like that. We did the opposite against Fair (Cabot’s second round game at RHS). We held them to 18 in the first half and gave up 30 in the second. I think we just get a little complacent when we get ahead and don’t play with the intensity we need to.”

The Panthers (10-1) are in the midst of their own win streak, with Friday’s victory making it nine in a row since a 45-44 loss to Arkansas Baptist in the second game of the season.

That success has come, in part, by Cabot’s increasingly effective inside game. The duo of 6-foot-8 Matt Stanley, who was named the tournament MVP, and 6-6 Logan Gilbertson, combined to make 12 of 18 shot attempts and score 31 points in Friday’s win.

Gilbertson was 5 for 7 from 2-point range and 3 of 5 from outside. Stanley missed his only 3-point attempt, but made 4 of 5 underneath.

Gilbertson led all scorers with 19 points.

“I think we’re an inside-out team,” Bridges said. “We’re better inside than we were last year. Both of those guys have improved, and I think Matt and Gillie are about the best inside duo around. But we’re also a team that makes you guard us outside. That’s what Jacksonville tried to do. They came in intent on taking away our inside game. But then Jalen (Brown) busted out for 17 in the third quarter and Bobby Joe (Duncan) had 21 for the game.”

Stanley scored 12 points on Friday, and earned the MVP award by posting back-to-back double-doubles in the first two rounds. He had 22 points and 10 rebounds against Clarksville to go with 21 points and 10 rebounds against J.A. Fair.

The Panthers open conference play at home on Friday against Catholic. Cabot beat Catholic 61-26 earlier in the season and Catholic still has not won a game this year. Beyond that, the 7A-Central includes several very strong teams.

“I look ahead and I get scared,” Bridges said. “I think there are six of us that could beat anybody on any night. That’s why I want us to get to where we’re playing hard all four quarters of the game.”