Tuesday, February 02, 2010

SPORTS >> Lady ’Rabbits on track to claim conference

Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris goes over strategy in the finals of the Beebe Christmas Classic tournament.

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits kept their 2-4A Conference mark clean with a crucial victory on the road at Stuttgart last Tuesday.

Lonoke (17-5, 9-0) overcame a close, foul-plagued first half and outscored the Lady Ricebirds 20-11 in the third quarter on the way to a 63-47 victory.

Winning on the road is not always easy in conference play, but the Lady ’Rabbits have now beaten Stuttgart, Clinton and Heber Springs at their home gyms. Clinton and Heber Springs have two conference losses each while Stuttgart has three.

“We’ve got a two-game lead with those teams coming to our place,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “We don’t talk about an opponent until they’re here. We’ve tried to take the approach of one game at a time. If we let people talk about the postseason, it’s taking away from what’s going on right now.”

Senior guard Ashleigh Himstedt led the Lady Jackrabbits against Stuttgart with 21 points — eight of which came in the decisive third quarter — and six rebounds. Post player and UALR signee Asiah Scribner fought her way to 15 points and 11 rebounds despite facing a double team most of the night.

Junior Cara Neighbors added 14 points and five assists, while senior point guard Michaela Brown had six points, four steals, three rebounds and three assists.

Neighbors’ numbers for the season are tops for Lonoke. Though she sat out much of December recovering from wrist surgery, Neighbors has a 15.8 average through only 11 games and has shot 41 percent from three-point range.

Himsted is averaging 12.5 points a game, but she has been the team leader since the start of league play, averaging 15.8 points in nine conference games.

Scribner is averaging 13.3 points a game with a 10.7 rebounding average.

“Asiah is probably the only player in our conference who gets double teamed night in and night out,” Morris said. “If it were me having to defend us, I guess I would try to stop her under the basket and hope that no one else is hitting.”

Lonoke had 10 fouls against Stuttgart in the first half but committed only four in the second. Himstedt contributed more than points by grabbing six offensive rebounds.

“It seemed like everybody had a stat that was outside the normal columns that stood out,” Morris said. “I’m proud of the way we kept our composure through the first half, and we had people that came in once some of our starters got into foul trouble and filled in nicely.”

Neighbors helped the Lady Jackrabbits establish momentum in the third quarter with a pair of three-point baskets. Lonoke led 48-39 at the end of the third quarter and held the Lady Ricebirds to only eight points in the final period.

Judging by the double teams, Scribner has one of the more dangerous reputations in the 2-4A Conference, but she has gotten strong support from post players Anna Himstedt, Emily Howell and Artice Morris.

“Those three together are averaging nine rebounds a game,” Morris said. “That’s keeping the ball alive for us.”