Tuesday, January 31, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Controversy costs CHS

Leader sports editor

Losses are always disappointing, but the prevailing emotion after the Cabot Panthers’ 67-62 overtime loss at North Little Rock on Friday was anger. Cabot coach Jerry Bridges believes his 6-foot-8 post player Matt Stanley cleanly blocked NLR’s final shot, which would have preserved a 54-51 Cabot win in regulation. Instead, Stanley was called for a foul, and Wildcat sophomore B.J. Walker calmly sank all three free throws to force overtime.

Reviews of game film show Bridges was right. Stanley didn’t touch Walker. In fact, he blocked the shot from several feet away. Walker went tumbling to the floor as Stanley landed near him, and duped the official into making the call.

“I thought it was questionable at the end,” said Bridges. “Maybe we have to do a better of job closing out, but I thought he did a good job of contesting the shot without fouling.”

Cabot’s three-point lead before the controversial foul call was the biggest for either team the entire fourth quarter.

In fact, the entire game was extremely close. Cabot’s largest lead was four points. North Little Rock’s was the final margin. The game included 18 lead changes.

Cabot led by three to start the fourth quarter, and both teams missed several shots before Des Duckworth tied the game with 5:45 to go. Bobby Joe Duncan took the inbound pass and went the length of the floor for a fingertip roll-in just 12 seconds later.

Laityn Shepherd then got his own rebound and putback to tie the game, and that kind of play was a major factor throughout the game.

Both teams finished with 34 rebounds, but North Little Rock had 16 offensive boards to just nine for Cabot, and scored many more second-chance points.

“I thought we were uncharacteristic offensively at times,” Bridges said. “We didn’t take good shots and we have to do better than that.”

After a Duncan miss, Stanley was called for his fourth foul away from the ball. North Little Rock’s Deion Dobbins then got another rebound and putback for a 47-45 Wildcat lead with 3:35 remaining.

Noah Allgood completed a 3-point play after a nifty pass from Jarrod Barnes. Dobbins answered right back to make it 49-48 NLR. Cabot ran the same play, and this time it was Jalen Brown that found Allgood open under the basket for a 50-49 Cabot lead with 2:34 on the clock.

Logan Gilbertson took a charge at the other end, but was called for a charge on offense just moments later. Brown then took a charge for Cabot with 1:37 left, giving the Panthers the ball under the NLR basket.

Cabot had to spend two timeouts to keep from getting a five-second violation. Once it did, it got a third of its game’s offensive rebounds on the next possession. After three misses and three rebounds, Barnes was finally fouled, and he made 1 of 2 free throws for a 51-49 lead with 1:14 remaining.

Duckworth then penetrated for a 10-foot floater that floated all the way over the backboard and out of bounds. NLR fouled Duncan with 49 seconds to go, and he also made 1 of 2 to make it 52-49.

North Little Rock missed a 3-pointer and Duncan got the long rebound for Cabot. The Wildcats knocked the ball out of bounds under the Cabot goal with 21 seconds remaining. But the Wildcats’ inbound defense again proved difficult for Cabot. The Panthers had to throw the ball 3/4 length of the court where Barnes caught it. Dobbins stripped him from behind and hit an open layup with 16 seconds left.

The Wildcats immediately fouled Gilbertson, who made both foul shots to set up NLR’s final, controversial, game-tying possession.

Allgood made 1 of 2 free throws to start the overtime, but Jarvis Ricks scored 20 seconds later and the Wildcats never trailed again as the Panthers went cold from the floor.

Duncan and Barnes each finished with 15 points to lead Cabot. Gilbertson added 12 and Allgood had 10. Dobbins led NLR with 19 points. Collin Moore added 17 and Ricks 14 for the Wildcats.

The game’s results left North Little Rock (11-4, 5-1) all alone atop the 7A-Central standings. Cabot is 14-3 overall, and in a three-way tie with Little Rock Central and Fort Smith Northside for second place at 4-2. NLR’s only league loss was to Conway. The Wildcats beat all three teams tied for second. Conway and Bryant are 3-3. Fort Smith Southside is 1-5 and Catholic is 0-6 in the Central standings.