Tuesday, November 14, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers win opener

Leader sports editor

Free throw shooting almost doomed the Cabot ladies in their opener on Monday, but bench defense finally wilted the Forrest City Lady Mustangs. Cabot forced 30 turnovers and came from behind in the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth game to beat Forrest City 58-52 in the first round of the Heavenly Hoops Classic at Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock.

A late run by the Lady Panthers put them up by eight, and they held on for a 58-52 win in the first round of the Heavenly Hoops Classic at Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock.

Forrest City jumped out on Cabot at the beginning of both halves, but inexperience plus Cabot’s pressure took its toll toward the end.

“We had a couple of girls that came off the bench and really gave us a lift,” said Cabot assistant coach Jeremy Halbrook. “(Isabella) Arnold came in and did a great job defensively. Dejah Jimerson, she had been hurt, but she came in and did pretty good in our benefit game, so we gave her a chance. She was able to get past them and get to the basket. If she makes her free throws she’s well into double figures.”

The Lady Mustangs harassed Cabot into 21 turnovers, but more than half of their own turnovers were Cabot steals. Ball control will be a focus the rest of the week for the Lady Mustangs.

“We’re going to clean it up,” said Forrest City coach Erica Taylor. “When Tatyana Norment fouls out, you have to put players in there that aren’t as used to handling things like that, and we didn’t do a good job of it. It’s just going to take more work and getting more experience.”

Cabot scored the first basket of the game 12 seconds after tip off, but Forrest City scored the next 10 and held an eight-point lead when Lady Panther coach Carla Crowder called timeout with 3:50 left in the first period. From that point, Cabot turned the tables and outscored Forrest City 7-2 the rest of the quarter, then scored first to start the second period to pull within 12-11.

Cabot took its first lead since 2-0 when senior Lesley Roberts hit a 3-pointer that gave her team a 16-15 lead with 5:40 to go in the half. It was back and forth from that point until the break, and the two teams went into intermission knotted at 24-24.

Both teams left several points on the floor with missed free throws. Forrest City was just 6 of 15 from the line in the first half. Cabot was even worse, making just 4 of 16 attempts in the first two quarters.

The third quarter started much like the first. Cabot went up 29-26 on a 3-point play by point guard Blair Nichols, but the Lady Mustangs answered with a 9-0 run to take a 35-29 lead 3:35 left in the period.

The Lady Panthers finally broke a four-minute drought when Gabby Dodson scored with 3:12 on the clock. Dodson then picked up her fourth foul and sent Tyke Edwards to the line. She made 1 of 2 for a 26-31 FCHS lead, but Cabot took control.

The Lady Panthers scored nine in a row to close the third quarter. Arnold and Jimerson came off the bench to force a series of turnovers that led to the run.

Morgan Westbrook also came off the bench and took a charge that led to a bucket by Roberts that set the margin going into the fourth quarter.

The Lady Mustangs still had a run in them, Norment got a steal and layup that put her team up 43-42 with 5:32 to play, but she fouled a minute later and sent Brooklyn Stracener to the line.

Stracener made both free throws to give Cabot the lead, but Kourtney Blanchett broke the press and hit a layup that put Forrest City right back on top 45-44 with 4:28 left in the game.

But just like in the second quarter, Cabot took control late in the period. Roberts hit a 3-pointer for Cabot. Arnold then got a steal and found Roberts for another basket that made the score 49-45 with 4:00 left.

Taylor called timeout, but the Lady Mustangs turned it over on the inbound pass. Cabot held it for almost a minute before Dodson missed. KeAmber Appleby got the rebound, but Roberts stole her outlet pass and passed to Nichols for a layup and a 51-45 lead 2:50 left in the game.

Dodson then got a steal and passed to Arnold, who passed back to Dodson in transition for a layup and an eight-point lead. Another Forrest City turnover allowed the Lady Panthers to burn another minute off the clock, and the Lady Mustangs couldn’t mount another comeback.

Roberts led all scorers with 18 points and was the only Lady Panther in double figures.

Norment scored 15 for Forrest City, but was only 3 for 8 from the foul line. Appleby had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Cabot plays eStem Charter in the semifinals at 7 p.m. today. Forrest City will take on Pulaski Academy at 5:30 p.m. eStem beat PA 63-44 on Monday.