Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits win opening game against Falcons

Leader sportswriter

HOT SPRINGS – The Lonoke Jackrabbits kicked their season off in style with a dominating 58-36 victory over North Pulaski in the first round of the Hoopfest tournament at Hot Springs High School on Monday.

The Jackrabbits were strong defensively from the start, limiting the Falcons (1-3) to just one field goal until the final two minutes of the first half. North Pulaski struggled from the floor as it trailed 11-2 at the end of the first quarter and 19-10 at the break.

Lonoke continued its defensive assault in the third quarter and also improved its own shooting as the Jackrabbits stretched their advantage to 42-19 by the end of the third quarter.

“They were definitely ready to play,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said. “We played so hard defensively. That’s kind of been our focus. They understand that as hard as we play defensively, things will become easier on the offensive end.”

Campbell pulled most of his starters at the beginning of the fourth quarter. North Pulaski responded with a full-court press that allowed the Falcons to erase some of the deficit. Eric Mouton got the Falcons to within 46-34 with 3:16 left to play with an inside basket, but North Pulaski scored only one more basket in the final three minutes.

“They’re so athletic,” Camp-bell said of North Pulaski. “And you think at any given time, they can get a cheap one here or a cheap one there to kind of get them rolling. Our kids were pretty solid defensively. I give our kids credit, they came out and played hard with a mentality to guard.”

Sophomore Blake Mack led scoring for Lonoke with 13 points. Senior and team captain Tarrale Watson added 12 points while another underclassman, Jamel Rankin, scored 11 points, all in the second half.

Rankin got going at the 4:28 mark of the third quarter when he got a steal that led to free throws that upped Lonoke’s lead to 34-13. He converted a basket and free throw with 2:13 left to play in the third that made it 39-17, and hit a three pointer in the final minute to give the Jackrabbits a 42-17 lead, their biggest of the game.

“Jamel can be a special player,” Campbell said. “He understands that he still has a lot of work to do, but he’s willing to put in the time to work hard. He has some people around him who push him. He makes us go; he’s definitely our best ball handler, and he sees the floor well.

“Even though he’s a sophomore, he’s a leader for us. We try not to label kids so much on classification, but whoever wants to be a leader, go be a leader – we’ll take it. ”

Lonoke held the Falcons without a player in double scoring figures. Senior Marvin Davis led the way for North Pulaski with eight points while Daniel Drone finished with seven points. Post player Courvausier Allen added six points for the Falcons.

The Jackrabbits advance to play Little Rock Christian Academy in the winner’s bracket on Thursday, while the Falcons will play Lafayette County earlier that evening in the consolation bracket.