Saturday, November 24, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits’ pressure is Robinson’s demize

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke’s season opener at Joe T. Robinson was close after a quarter of play, but in the second quarter, the Jackrabbits turned up the heat with their press defense and dominated the rest of the way en route to a 59-28 blowout win over the Senators on Tuesday.

The Jackrabbits held a narrow 11-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, but that all changed at the start of the second. Lonoke scored the first seven points of the second quarter, and forced four turnovers during the run with its full court press.

“I thought we did a really good job of putting a lot of pressure on (Robinson) and speeding them up, and putting them in situations they’re not comfortable being in,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell. “We talk all the time – presses are for turnovers, steals, and quick shots.

“So if you could either get a steal or force them to take a quick shot, that benefits us and we can go the other way and do some things on the offensive end.”

Nicholas Robinson’s layup broke Lonoke’s scoring run with 5:23 to play in the half, but a three pointer from junior Jamel Rankin sparked another scoring run for the Jackrabbits. After Rankin’s three ball, Lonoke outscored the Senators 11-4 to take a 32-15 lead at the break.

Being the first game of the season for Lonoke, a little rust was to beexpected. But the Jackrabbits have also had to deal with injuries that carried over from football season, which ended two weeks ago. Returning starter Blake Mack wasn’t on the floor at tip off, but entered the game midway through the first quarter as he’s been recovering from an ankle injury.

“We had a good week of practice,” Campbell said. “We’ve had some injuries of course and guys are banged up from football still. Dra (Offord) has had a little bit of a knee issue and he’s still working on getting better. Blake has been out most of the time with his ankle, which I think he hurt in the Clinton (football) game.

“He’s been off of it quite a bit, and you could tell once he got in. He hasn’t been playing that much, but he’s continued to play hard. We’re still trying to grow together as a group after one week of practice. I know we have summer stuff, but when they’re away with football, it’s hard to gel and figure out who fits together and who doesn’t fit together after a week.”

Like the second quarter, the ‘Rabbits scored the first seven points of the third before the Senators (1-3) could manage a basket. Three-point baskets from Dra Offord, Darrius McCall and Caleb Bracey helped push Lonoke’s lead to 50-23 by the end of the third.

A two pointer by Offord with 5:50 left to play put the sportsmanship rule in place as Lonoke led 55-25.

Less than a minute later, Offord banked in another three, which forced a Robinson timeout. During the timeout, Campbell sat his starters, and the final margin was set on a free throw by sophomore Braylon Bryant as time expired.

The ‘Rabbits out-rebounded the Senators 37-20 in the game, and had 14 takeaways to Robinson’s seven. Lonoke shot a less than stellar 41 percent at the free throw line, but made 56 percent of its three pointers.

Rankin led all scorers with 14 points. Offord finished with 12 points. Junior guard Darian Young scored seven points. Mack scored six points and grabbed six rebounds.

Lonoke’s next game will be Monday against Little Rock Christian in the Hot Springs Invitational tournament.