Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SPORTS >> Aggressive defense gets ’Rabbits win

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke girls did not play one of their better games, but they got away with a conference road win. That’s good enough for coach Nathan Morris as his Lady Jackrabbits beat Clinton 36-24 Friday in Van Buren County.

Morris’ bunch didn’t shoot well from the floor, and shot horribly from the free-throw line, but played strong defense and made points for the Lady Yellowjackets extremely difficult to come by.

“It wasn’t pretty, not at all,” Morris said. “At the same time, we’re not giving it back. It’s a road win in a tough place to play. Clinton doesn’t have the record that maybe its used to, but it’s not easy going over there. Those rims are tight. They have a good student section right there behind your basket. The play hard, they have tradition. We’ll take a win in that place no matter how we get it.”

The Lonoke ladies shot 30 free throws in the game and made just eight of them. Kaitlyn Tate made five of her eight attempts. The rest of the team combined to go three of 22.

“Take Tate’s out of the formula and then do the math,” Morris said. “That’s really unbelievable because we’ve been a pretty good free-throw shooting team. I told them they better get their act together because that’s not going to fly most of the time.”

The game wasn’t all bad for Lonoke. Morris was pleased with the defensive effort and also felt his team did a good job with its offensive execution, right up to the part where you shoot the ball.

“We did a great job of taking care of the ball,” Morris said. “They couldn’t get to us. They chase out of their zone. They never play man, but when they come out of their 2-3 zone, they go to a 1-2-2 zone and chase with their top three. They just couldn’t get to us. We got to the middle and had some 3 on 2 matchups. We just didn’t convert as often as we should have. But we did get some easy baskets out of it so they started fouling.”

Despite the low score and Clinton’s intentions of playing a slow-paced game, the pace wasn’t a slow one. Lonoke forced several turnovers, but usually in the half-court setting. Very few of the steals turned into transition opportunities.

Lonoke led 6-4 at the end of the first quarter, but a Clinton three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer gave the home team a 14-13 lead at intermission.

Lonoke took control of the game after the break.

Lonoke got a backside layup by Kerashsa Johnson to start the second half. Johnson added another bucket before Mary Davis hit a three pointer to make it 20-14 halfway through the third quarter. Freshman post player Eboni Willis scored on lob pass into the lane and Davis hit a driving shot at the buzzer to give Lonoke a 26-16 lead at the end of the third quarter.

“We executed offensively pretty well, but to hold them to two points, we did a really good job defensively in the third quarter,” Morris said. “We had a pretty good defensive effort all night.”

Tate, Johnson and Mary Davis each scored seven points to lead Lonoke.

Lonoke played its second game against Stuttgart on Tuesday at Stuttgart. The Lady Jackrabbits will face Southside-Batesville on Friday.