Monday, February 13, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Fort Smith Southside struggles to find shots in big loss.

Leader sports editor

Cabot had little trouble with Fort Smith Southside on Tuesday at Panther Arena. After the first quarter, they had none as they skated to a 66-32 victory. It was the last of three-straight games against the bottom two teams in the conference, and kicks off a brutal five-game run to end the regular season. 

Before playing winless Catholic twice, and Southside (6-13, 2-7) Cabot had lost two of its previous three games in controversial fashion. Coach Jerry Bridges was glad for a bit of a respite before hitting the season-ending grind. 

“We needed this stretch,” said Bridges. “We’re in the playoffs so that feels good to be over that hurdle. Now we hit these last five games to try and get as good a position as we can. And we better be ready because these are five really good teams.”

The Mavericks scored first when Will Smith made a 3-pointer from the corner just seconds into the game. Defensively, Southside was intent on keeping Cabot from scoring inside. Early on, the Panthers were settling for outside shots and not hitting them. That led to a 10-6 Southside lead with three minutes left in the first quarter. 

At that point, the Panthers had taken only one shot from inside the 3-point line, and were 2 for 7 from 3-point range. 

Even though the inside game never opened up much, when the Panthers began throwing the ball into the paint, the defensive collapses opened things up for outside shooters. That’s when Cabot started hitting, and hitting often. 

“Teams are working so hard to stop our big men,” Bridges said. “Our guards have been taking advantage of that, but we still have to execute. I don’t think we were running our offense like we’re supposed to early. When we started doing that, our guards got open shots and shot the ball well.”
Bridges felt the same way about his defense. 

“I think after the first few minutes of the game, we played really good defense. Their first shot was totally uncontested and I can’t stand that. But after that I don’t think we gave up anything easy.”

From being down 10-6, Cabot went on a 10-0 run. Though not involved in the scoring, post player Matt Stanley’s rebounding efforts kept balls alive after missed shots, and the Panthers scored five-straight on second-chance baskets. All five were by reserve guard Jared Vance.

Southside’s Taye Gatewood scored the last basket of the quarter, and Cabot took a 16-12 lead into the second period. The Mavericks then scored first in the second, but Cabot quickly made another big run.

Jalen Brown and Bobby Joe Duncan hit back-to-back 3-pointers before Zion Releford answered to make the score 22-16. Jarrod Barnes then drove the baseline for a lay in, and Stanley made 3 of 4 free throws to force a Southside timeout.

After the break, Christian Weir got a steal and passed to Duncan for another 3-pointer and a 30-16 Cabot lead with 2:20 left in the half.

The Panthers took a 35-21 lead into the locker room, and then blew the game wide open in the third.

Southside actually scored the first four points of the second half, but the Panthers answered with 14 in a row. Barnes hit a 3-pointer before Stanley completed a 3-point play. After a defensive stop, Stanley scored again, and Duncan then turned a turnover into a Cabot 3-pointer that made the score 46-25 and forced a Maverick timeout with 4:12 left in the third.

After the timeout, the Mavericks turned it over for the fourth-straight possession, and another 3-point play by Stanley completed the 14-0 run with 3:34 on the clock.

The run didn’t come without cost. Stanley and Barnes each picked up their fourth foul, but the bench came through to keep the run going.

Vance made a 3-pointer later that made it 55-27, and Noah Allgood put the Panthers up by 30 with a basket with 58 seconds left in the third. Releford made a 3-pointer to get the margin back under the mercy-rule invoking margin before the fourth quarter began, but that burden was met again by Allgood just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter.

With the clock running continuously from that point, Cabot outscored Southside 6-2 to set the final margin.

Cabot (17-3, 7-2) shot almost 50 percent from 3-point range after missing five of their first six. The Panthers finished 11 for 23 from outside. Duncan made 5 of 6 and led all scorers with 15 points. Stanley, who only had one basket in the first half, finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. He also, under frequent double teams, dished out five assists.

“Matt’s an unselfish player,” Bridges said. “If it’s not there for him, he gets other people involved.”

Allgood came off the bench for considerable playing time because of Stanley’s foul trouble, and also contributed 13 points and eight rebounds.

Releford led Southside with 14 points.