Friday, February 04, 2011

SPORTS>>Short-handed ’Rabbits can’t get past Trojans

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke’s cupboard was bare as Marianna-Lee took a 62-32 victory at Lonoke on Tuesday.

The Jackrabbits went with one semi-regular starter in sophomore post player Reid McKenzie in the 2-4A Conference matchup; the rest were substitutes on a team hit by illnesses and disciplinary issues.

Senior guard Rico Bryant was the only upperclassman to start and see much time as regular starters T.J. Scott, Dre Offord and Storm Beeler were recovering from illnesses.

Scott was down with strep throat, Offord was suffering from an eye infection and Beeler was feeling the effects of a concussion sustained recently. Senior Darius Scott and junior Keli Bryant also did not see playing time on Tuesday.

“We got it taken care of,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said.

“It’s a learning process for them. Everybody goes through it. It’s part of our job to grow them up as men, aswell as basketball players.”

Campbell declined to list the players sitting out for discipline reasons.

The jumbled lineup resulted in a big mismatch on the court. The Trojans (11-11, 6-6) had four players over 6-3, including 6-8 post player Elbert Fields, along with 5-10 junior guard Demarcus Price.

Lonoke (2-9 2-4A) had three players under 5-9, with inexperienced post players McKenzie at 6-3 and sophomore classmate Zach Risner at 6-2.

“I don’t scout folks,” Marianna-Lee head coach Larry Mitchell said. “I don’t know anything about what they do, because I’ve got my hands full with my group. We’re just trying to learn how to play hard and get our intensity level up to a level that most people can’t play at.”

The Trojans took advantage of the disparity in size and speed and took a 39-13 lead at halftime, but it was reserve guard Joshua Smith who exploited the smaller Jackrabbits the most in the second half. Smith broke free for four dunks in the half, one of which drew boos from the home crowd after Smith hung on the rim briefly.

“I think they’re catching on to what we’re doing,” Mitchell said. “We really found something that fits them. We’ve been trying different defenses all year. I think we found the right fit.”

The Jackrabbits appeared timid in the first half but began to fight back as the second half progressed. The Trojans consistently stretched the margin until triggering the sportsmanship/timing mercy rule with just under six minutes left to play following a dunk by Fields that made it 57-27.

Junior Tarrale Watson and 5-6 sophomore guard Brandon Russell carried Lonoke through much of the second half.

Watson led the Jackrabbits with 12 points while Russell, who weighs under 100 pounds, did not let his size stop him from driving the baseline and fighting for rebounds in the lane.

“Brandon, that’s something he’s always done,” Campbell said. “He’s always attacked. He does a good job of that. He’s by far our smallest one, and our lightest one in the britches, there’s no doubt, but he understands what we’re trying to do, and he knew we needed to attack.”