Tuesday, February 21, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot dominates OT to beat Bryant

Leader sports editor

A wildly exciting fourth quarter led to overtime, and Cabot’s defense made overtime anti-climactic. The Panthers pitched a shutout in the extra four minutes, and avenged a stinging loss from earlier this season by beating Bryant 61-53 at Panther Arena on Friday.

Immediately following the game, Cabot coach Jerry Bridges didn’t even realize that Bryant didn’t score a single point in overtime, but did know his defense played well.

“I think our defense stepped up in the second half and overtime,” said Bridges. “And that had to happen because they were beating us. Their pressure was hurting us and we got behind. And I think our big men got back on track and gave us a lift. That was important.”

Most teams this season have focused their defensive efforts on stopping the Panthers’ inside game.

On Friday, Bryant chose to defend the whole floor, leaving Matt Stanley and Logan Gilbertson with some one-on-one situations, instead of collapsed double- and sometimes triple-team situations. They took advantage.

The duo combined for more than half of the team’s points. Stanley finished with 24 points and nine rebounds.

Bryant forced 12 Cabot turnovers, including nine steals, and took a 30-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Cabot started handling the pressure in the second half. The first two possessions ended in layups by Jarrod Barnes and Jalen Brown, forcing Bryant to call a quick timeout just 54 seconds into the third period. It didn’t help much, at least right away.

Bryant turned the ball over and Gilbertson got another layup to make it 30-26 less than 90 seconds into the third.

Bryant (16-9, 5-17) scored the next three points, and then forced two more turnovers, but the Hornets couldn’t take advantage. Bryant’s Braylen Steen bricked back-to-back layups after Cabot turnovers. Stanley then converted a 3-point play to make it 33-29.

With four minutes to go in the third. Brown made a 3-pointer that pulled Cabot to within one point.

Steen then scored, but Duncan answered at the other end with an up-and-under layup after driving from the right wing.

Stanley posted up for a basket with 1:50 left in the quarter to give Cabot its first lead since early in the first quarter. It was also the last points of the third, and the Panthers led 36-35 going into the fourth.

The Panthers stretched it to a five-point lead for the second time in the quarter when Stanley scored with exactly two minutes remaining to make the score 51-46.

Cabot (19-4, 9-3) had opportunities to extend it even further, but blew some opportunities at the free-throw line.

After another missed layup by Steen, Brown missed the front end of a one-and-one. Hornet Calvin Allen followed that with a 3-pointer that made it 51-49 with 1:15 to go.

Gilbertson scored just 10 seconds later, and Bryant threw the ball away to give possession back to Cabot.

The Hornets then sent Stanley to the line, and he also missed the front end of a one-and-one with 45 seconds to go.

Bryant missed from long range, but Steen got the rebound and putback to make it a two-point game with 29 seconds to go. Allen then stole the ball from Duncan, and Cabot fouled Steen, who hit both ends of a one-and-one to tie the game with 20 tics remaining.

Cabot got two shots off before the buzzer, but Brown missed from 3-point range, and Stanley’s putback attempt from behind the backboard failed, sending the game into overtime.

Neither team scored for the first half of overtime, but Cabot finally got a break. Allen knocked the ball loose from Brown, but it hit a defender and bounced right back to him.

With most players converging on the ball in the lane, Brown snatched it up and passed to Duncan, who was all alone in the right corner. Duncan made the 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:50 remaining.

Neither team scored again for more than a minute. Bryant’s #4 got a steal, but his court-length pass was stolen right back by Gilbertson, who had hustled down the court after the Cabot turnover.

He got the ball to Stanley under the Cabot goal, and Stanley scored and was fouled. His free throw, with 44 seconds left, gave Cabot a 59-53 lead. Bryant couldn’t find the range again, and was forced to foul after Panther rebounds.