Cabot basketball fans saw an up and down night against Little Rock Central last week.
The Lady Panthers had a big first half, but a bad fourth quarter in a 51-42 loss to the Lady Tigers, who were undefeated in the conference at the time. The Lady Tigers lost at Mountain Home Friday night.
In the second game, the Panthers were on fire from the opening tip, running roughshod over the Tigers in a 63-35 win.
The Lady Panthers jumped out to a 29-21 halftime lead over the Lady Tigers. Cabot was 5 for 5 from beyond the arc in the first half, with Jaylin Bridges scoring all 12 of her points on four three-pointers in the half. Elliot Taylor led Cabot with 13 points.
The Lady Tigers played much tighter perimeter defense in the second half while wearing down the Lady Panthers.
Little Rock Central committed just four turnovers in the second half compared to 16 for Cabot. That defense held the Lady Panthers without a field for a 10-minute stretch from the 2:30 mark in the third quarter to the final seconds of the game.
The Lady Tigers outscored the Lady Panthers 21-5 during that stretch.
"We were focused in the first half, but they just outplayed us in the fourth," said Cabot coach Carla Crowder. "42 (Kiara Williams) is good, but if we block out then we get rebounds and we didn’t do that."
A freshman, Williams scored nine points and had 10 rebounds in the second half.
Alyssa Hamilton scored six points, while Ryan Wilson and Ally Van Enk each scored five for the Lady Panthers. Riley Patterson added a free throw.
The boys game was a different story as the Panthers raced out to a 13-2 lead midway through the first quarter.
Little Rock Central went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter to pull within three points at 25-22, but that momentum would be short-lived.
Jake Ferguson drained a three-pointer with just under two minutes left in the first half to stop Cabot’s bleeding. The Panthers led 32-22 at halftime after baskets from Michael Smith and Clayton Vaught. Smith’s basket gave him 13 points in the half. The junior forward went on to score a Panther season-high 25 points, despite being taken out early in the fourth quarter.
"I’m proud of the progress Michael has made, he’s such a good kid," said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. "We brought out the tackling dummies in practice and have been beating up the post guys for a few practices, getting them used to contact down low. We should’ve done that a lot earlier than now and that’s my fault."
Smith scored three straight buckets in the paint to begin the second half and help the Panthers to a 13-3 run to put them firmly in control at 45-25. A basket by Nick Thomas set the clock running with 2:42 remaining in the fourth quarter and the score 62-32.
Ferguson finished with eight points for Cabot, while Kyle Thielemier had six points. Bryan Shrum, Vaught and Thomas each had five points. A.I. Iglesias scored four, Ryan Stafford two, Hunter York two and Tyler Hill one in the win.
With the win, Cabot is now qualified for the Class 7A state tournament for the sixth consecutive season.