Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke gets two wins at tourney

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke boys and girls got first-round wins in the Hot Springs Invitational on Monday. The boys played outstanding defense in beating Little Rock Christian Academy 56-30 while the girls got by Mills University Studies 50-42

In the boys game, the Jackrabbits held the Warriors to seven total baskets and four of those came in the fourth quarter when Lonoke coach Dean Campbell played mostly reserves and junior varsity players.

Starter Blake Mack stayed in until the end of the game and finished as the leading scorer with 20 points.

“He got two quick fouls and didn’t play the rest of the first half,” Campbell said. “I wanted to leave him in there and get him some more playing time.”

While Mack was the leading scorer, point guard Jamel Rankin drew the most praise from Campbell.

“Jamel played one of the better games I’ve ever seen him play,” Campbell said. “He took care of the ball. I don’t think he had a turnover, and he set a defensive tone for us early on that was unbelievable. He got a handful of steals and a handful of rebounds for us that were huge.”

The Jackrabbits gave up two buckets in the first quarter and held a 12-6 lead at the end of one period of play. They did not allow a single basket by the Warriors in the second quarter, but committed several fouls and struggled offensively.

Lonoke stayed stuck on 12 points for over half the second quarter, and sent the Warriors to the line 18 times. Fortunately for Lonoke, Little Rock Christian made just seven of those 18 attempts, and the offense found its rhythm again late in the quarter. The Jackrabbits scored 11 points in the final three minutes and took a 23-13 lead into intermission.

The Warriors managed just one bucket in the third quarter to go along with four free throws, while Lonoke posted 16 points to stretch its lead to a commanding 39-19.

“We sent them to the line way too much in the second quarter,” Campbell said. “I liked how aggressive we were, but at times we were a little overly aggressive and reaching way too much. At halftime we talked about playing defense with your feet and they went out and did that. They did a great job of moving their feet and getting their chest out in front.”

Lonoke didn’t get to the free-throw line often, shooting just nine compared to LRCA’s 30, but the Jackrabbits made seven of them.

“I wasn’t very pleased with our free-throw shooting in our first game,” Campbell said. “We didn’t get a lot of opportunities, but we did a fairly good job of capitalizing when we did get them.”

Lonoke’s second-round game will be against the Mills boys, who beat Arkansas Baptist 61-57 on Monday.

“They lost a lot off last year’s team, but coach (Raymond) Cooper has those boys flying around everywhere just pressuring you like crazy,” Campbell said of Mills. “It will be a good learning experience for us because we’re going to face a couple of teams that play that style in our conference.”

The Lady Jackrabbits built a nice lead through the first half and simply maintained it in the final two quarters. Lonoke led 36-22 at the break, but was outscored 20-14 in the second half.

“We shot the ball terribly from the free-throw line,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “We had some opportunities to open it up a little bit but didn’t get it done.”

The Lady Rabbits finished the game making just seven of 23 attempts from the line.

Eboni Willis led Lonoke with 17 points while Amanda Sexton scored 11 and Kerasha Johnson added 10.

Lonoke plays Hot Springs at 7 p.m. tonight at HSHS.