Free throws, defense lift Panthers
By Billy Woods WM School District
CABOT — It was a game the Blue Devils needed to win. And in order to win, head coach Larry Bray figured they had to keep Cabot off the free-throw line. First half? Check. Only two Cabot free throws, both of which were missed. Second half? Cabot shot 18 free throws, making 14 and the Panthers were just a half-step quicker than West Memphis here last Friday night in a 54-36 win. The free-throw figures was the first topic brought up by Bray in his post-game presser. “I thought we did a good job keeping (Cabot) off the free-throw line in the first half, but in the second half…,” Bray said, with his voice trailing off. “They shot a lot of free throws.” Actually, free throws were only a small part of the problem for the Blue Devils, who had their winning streak snapped at four games, falling to 13-10 overall on the season and 6-4 in the 7A/6A-East Conference. They never led in the game and they went through a long stretch of 8 minutes, 18 seconds without scoring a point from the first quarter to the second quarter. During that span, the Blue Devils went from trailing 14-11 to trailing 24-13. “We didn’t do a lot of the things we’d been working on in practice, things we had been executing in games (during the winning streak),” Bray added. “It was just one of those games where nothing went right.” Coming into the game needing a win over Cabot to clinch a 7A state tournament berth, the Blue Devils now need a win this Friday at Little Rock Central, which would result in a two-game season sweep of the Tigers. A loss to Central, and the state tournament possibilities get a bit murky. Cabot (15-7, 6-4) used a disciplined approach on offense to sink 6 of 11 three-point attempts and 11 of 19 from two-point range. “I think in the first half we forced the issue a lot and at halftime we just told them to let the game come to them,” said Cabot head coach Jerry Bridges. “Actually, I thought the big thing for us tonight is we did a much better defensively than we did (in a 53-44 loss) at West Memphis.” Cabot led 32-20 at the end of three quarters and although the Blue Devils were able to cut the deficit to 34-23 still with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Panthers would go on to score the next eight points to put the game out of reach. The brightest spot for West Memphis was the play of sophomore Zachary Byrd, who at only 6-1 plays inside, but who has a high motor. Byrd led all scorers with 17 points. Ahmere Albert, a senior, had 5 points. Garrett Rowe and Bobby Joe Duncan led Cabot with 14 points apiece, with Duncan’s figure coming in the second half alone. The Blue Devils return home Tuesday night to face Jonesboro at Lehr Arena.