Monday, January 09, 2012

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits overcome mistakes, stay perfect

Leader Sports Editor

The Jackrabbits had a 7-0 lead seemingly before you could blink, and it was pretty even from that point Tuesday at Lonoke High School. Lonoke went on to beat the Stuttgart Ricebirds 46-39 in a 4A-2 conference matchup.

“We did what we talked about and that was holding home court for conference,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said. “I thought we left some things out there, but we’re growing and getting some experience and we got a win.”

Lonoke’s Tarrale Watson hit a pull up jumper, Reid McKenzie got a shot from the post and Darrius McCall nailed a three pointer, giving the Jackrabbits a 7-0 lead, and forcing Stuttgart to call timeout with 6:32 left in the first quarter.

After the timeout, the game became a series of turnovers by both teams. Lonoke scored just two points over the next five minutes, while the Ricebirds didn’t get on the scoreboard at all until the 1:50 mark. Jordan Daniels’ bucket made it 9-2, but Lonoke scored the last four points of the frame to give the Jackrabbits a 13-2 lead heading into the second quarter.

The Ricebirds made a run midway through the period to pull within 20-15, and had three possessions at that score.

While Lonoke’s offense was struggling mightily with turnovers, the defense was playing hard and well enough to keep the Ricebirds at bay.

“I don’t know if it’s anything we stopped doing,” Campbell said. “I think they did a good job of changing the tempo and changing the pressure. It’s a credit to them because they were down 13-2 and had to do something, and they did.”

Stuttgart got to within 22-18 with 40 seconds left in the second quarter and had an opportunity to get even closer with two free throws. But Daniels missed both and Jackrabbit sophomore Blake Mack went the other way for a layup to set the score for halftime at 24-18.
Lonoke committed 17 turnovers in the first half, including 10 in the second quarter.

“The last few games we’re just getting sped up,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said. “We’re still trying to get comfortable with a new point guard and it’s definitely a work in progress. But we’re 3-0 right now and the more we play the more comfortable we’re going to get with what we’re trying to do.”

Lonoke made a small run to start the second half to get the lead back into double digits, but Stuttgart again made a run at the end. Daniels hit a three pointer with 50 seconds left in the third to make it 35-30, and that’s where it stood to start the fourth.

Neither team scored for a couple of minutes in the final frame, but senior guard Keli Bryant came off the bench to make one of the biggest plays of the game.

McKenzie missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Bryant battled and came up with the offensive rebound under the basket. In no-man’s land for a small guard, Bryant dribbled baseline out of the lane, turned and found Watson breaking to the basket for a bucket and a foul. Watson made the free-throw to make it 38-30.

About a minute later, Bryant was fouled attempting a three pointer and made two of three from the line to give Lonoke at 10-point lead that all but sealed the game.

“There wasn’t much there that’s going to jump off the stat sheet at you, but those were huge plays that (Bryant) made,” Campbell said. “Those are the things we talk about, just do the things you can when you get the opportunity. He really gave us a lift in the fourth quarter.”
McKenzie led the Jackrabbits with 13 points, and had a double double by adding 10 rebounds.

“Reid, I think, had his best game so far,” Campbell said. “I think we got away from going to him in the fourth quarter and we’ll have to work on that.”

Lonoke’s overall record improved to 10-4 while Stuttgart dropped to 2-9 overall and 0-5 in league play. The Jackrabbits played at home against Cave City on Friday and will host Marianna on Tuesday.