Monday, December 17, 2007

SPORTS >>Lonoke runs out on Trojans

Leader sports editor

A blowout at the start suddenly became a game, then a blowout again. Such is so often the case when the all-out defensive blitz that is the Marianna Trojans comes to town, but the Lonoke Jackrabbits proved more than able to handle the suffocating pressure and prevailed 80-64 in a crucial early 4A-2 Conference matchup Tuesday night at LHS.

Marianna set the tone right from the start. Lonoke controlled the tip, but Trojan guard Henry Edwards got a steal at midcourt and dished to teammate Jekari Van Pelt for a layup to give the Trojans a 2-0 lead.

Lonoke answered right back by breaking the Marianna pressure and closing with an and-one by Jordan Lambert for a 3-2 lead.

Marianna got another steal and layup after a miss, and that was it for the next few minutes. Lonoke went on the first of a few different runs in the game. This one was a 9-0 burst that included three pointers by Michael Howard and Clarence Harris.
Trailing 12-4, Marianna called timeout with 5:34 left in the first quarter as the vocal crowd roared appreciation.

Lonoke coach Wes Swift was impressed with his team’s ability to put points on the board in a hurry.

“I told the guys to just not get frustrated when things aren’t going right because I think we’re as good of a spurt team as there is in 4A,” Swift said. “We can put 10 points up in a minute when it starts clicking for us.”

The timeout did little to slow the momentum down at the time. Lonoke continued to beat the pressure out of the break and the Trojans had little answer for Lambert on the inside. The lead grew to as much as 22-6 before settling at 25-12 by the end of the period.

The second quarter was more of the same and the Lonoke lead continued to grow.

Harris and guard Tyrone Dobbins began getting to the rim and getting the ball to freshman post Myles Taylor. Taylor went to the line for seven free throws and scored all of his eight points in the first half.

The Jackrabbits pushed their advantage to 20 in the final minute, and senior Bradley Spencer put an exclamation point on the half by draining a three at the buzzer to put Lonoke up 47-24 at the half.

“I almost hate being up that much against a team like that,” Swift said. “I’d almost rather by up 10. When you’re up 23, you tend to relax. Relaxing against a team like Marianna, you’ll suddenly find yourself in a game again.”

Swift’s worries were legitimate. The Trojan pressure had only forced eight turnovers in the first half, a bit more than Swift likes, but against Marianna, he said afterwards that he would have been ok with 15 or so.

In the third quarter, the Jackrabbits turned it over 11 times. They turned it over four more times in the first minute of the fourth, equaling Swift’s limit of 15 in a nine-minute stretch.

Swift called timeout with seven minutes left in the game when the Trojans cut the margin to 59-47.

Marianna’s shooting woes and good Lonoke defense kept the Trojan at arm’s length. The Trojans were only able to turn those 15 turnovers in 19 points.

Lonoke didn’t turn it over again until only 2:15 was left in the game, and in that time they stretched the lead back out to as much as 22 points.

Marianna got three quick steals under the basket in the final 22 seconds to score the final six points of the game and set the final margin.

Howard led five Jackrabbits in double figures with 19 points. Harris added 17, Lambert and Dobbins scored 12 and Spencer added 10.

Edwards led the Trojans with 19 points.

Lonoke improved to 7-3 on the season and 3-0 in conference play. Marianna dropped to 2-1 in league play.

The Lady Jackrabbits had far less trouble in their game, handling the Lady Trojans 61-22 in a game that was a bit more competitive than the score may indicate. Lonoke was never seriously threatened, but Marianna’s improvement from last year impressed Lonoke coach Nathan Morris.

“They’re definitely better,” Morris said. “They play a lot harder than they did last year and they have a few good players. They definitely have some athletes. They were playing just has hard late in the game when it was over as they were at the start. They’re doing some good things this year.”

Morris was more impressed with his squad, which also continued to play hard even when the outcome was no longer in question.

“I was pleased with how we got after it defensively,” Morris said. “We really disrupted them quite a bit and made it hard for them to get the ball up the court. Offensively we shot it pretty well too. If we can keep shooting like that, we’ll be all right.”

Before the game, Morris was a bit concerned with his team’s rebounding, but little could be learned from Tuesday’s affair.

“We didn’t let them shoot many, and we didn’t miss many, so it wasn’t a game where you’re going to see a lot of rebounds,” Morris said.

The statistics bear that out. Lonoke hit 25 of 51 field goal attempts, including 6 of 12 from three-point land. Marianna shot only 33 times, and made just eight.

Lonoke won the rebound battle 24-19.

Post player Asian Scribner and guard Haley O’Cain shared leading-scorer honors with 15 points apiece. Ann Westbrook led Marianna with eight points.

Lonoke improved to 3-0 in league play and 7-3 on the season.