Tuesday, January 04, 2011

SPORTS>>Lady Wildcats hold off threat to finish fifth

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke made a run in the third quarter but Harding Academy pulled away to a 50-38 victory in the fifth-place game of the Beebe Holiday Classic at Badger Sports Arena on Thursday.

Harding Academy held every Lonoke scorer under 10 points, including senior guard and scoring leader Cara Neighbors, who finished with a season-low six.

Harding Academy junior guard Lynley Crowell capped off a solid tournament with a game-high 17 points, including a three-point basket and a pair of free throws to start off the fourth quarter and help the Lady Wildcats (5-8) to regain momentum.

“That’s a good program, and it has been for a long time,” Harding Academy coach Rusty Garner said. “Coach Morris does a good job. I told our kids at halftime I thought we had played really well, and it was a long way from over.

“They were going to make a run, and when they came out for the third quarter, they didn’t make that run then. We got a little comfortable, and then they came roaring back at us then. Maybe a month ago, I don’t know if we come back and pull that one out, but we kind of bowed up and got just enough stops.”

Lonoke (9-6) struggled to score despite Neighbors’ attempts to draw defenders away from her teammates. But the Lady Jackrabbits missed shots whether or not Neighbors was successful in her efforts.

“We played hard, and we played harder in the second half,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “We came out as flat as a one-egg cake at the first of the game. I don’t know if it was my fault, their fault, or whose; for whatever reason we weren’t very ready.

“That’s on me if we don’t come out and play hard. We really just had too much to try to come from behind. It’s a lot easier to come back from six, eight, 10 than down 15.”

Junior Derrika Mays scored five of her seven points to help Lonoke close the gap in the third quarter. Mays hit a bank shot with 3:20 left in the period to make it 33-17 before tacking on a free throw moments later.

Patrice Smith made a three-pointer off a steal and assist from Mary Kathryn Davis to cut it to 33-24 with 1:35 left. Another inside basket by Mays brought Lonoke as close as it would get at 33-26.

“We can’t score four points a quarter and win,” Morris said. “We didn’t attack the basket enough in the first quarter. We were a little bit passive. Once we started getting to the basket in the second half, we did a lot better.”

Neighbors, who averages close to 20 points a game, made a pair of first-quarter baskets and two free throws in the third quarter for her six points. She spent the rest of the time directing the offense and trying to set up teammates.

But the Lady Wildcats clogged the lanes for the most part, forcing the cold-shooting Lady Jackrabbits to search for outside shots.

“I think Cara Neighbors is a great player,” Garner said. “I’ve thought that for two or three years now, and I’ve told her so. We ran different defenders and decided to not give her space to get to the rim and maybe get on a roll.”