Wednesday, January 16, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits get a crucial 4A-2 victory

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke jumped out to an early lead and withstood a late run by Heber Springs to win 61-51 Friday in a 4A-2 Conference matchup at the Lonoke High School gym.

The Jackrabbits came out with a lot of energy as it was the team’s first home game since Dec. 11. Lonoke (10-4, 4-1) used that energy to its advantage as the Jackrabbits started the game with an 8-0 scoring run.

Aaron Brown scored the first points for Heber Springs (10-5, 4-2) at the 2:04 mark of the opening quarter on a three pointer. Brown scored the rest of the Panthers’ points on a free throw and another three, but Lonoke added seven more points to the scoreboard to take a 15-7 lead at the end of the first.

“We shot it well tonight,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell. “I thought our effort was a lot better than the last two times we were at home against Dollarway and Southside (Batesville). I thought our kids played real well. I’m excited for them. It’s been since December 11th since we’ve played at home. So they were a little excited to finally get to play at home.”

Heber Springs settled into the game in the second quarter and outscored Lonoke 14-11 in that time to cut the ‘Rabbits’ lead to 26-21 at the break. Blake Mack kept the scoring alive for Lonoke in the quarter as he scored nine of the ‘Rabbits’ 11 points.

Brown and Judson Smith hit two big three pointers during the Panthers’ second quarter run that helped spark their offense. Heber Springs also hit their free throws in that time, going a perfect 6-for-6 at the line.

“They’re a really good team,” Campbell said of Heber Springs. “Coach Kyzer does a great job with them. They shoot the ball very well. There’s no doubt about that. We shot it well tonight as well.”

Lonoke had one of its better shooting performances of the season in the third quarter. The ‘Rabbits came out of the break hot as they opened the second half with an 8-0 scoring run led by senior guard Dra Offord, who drained two three pointers during the run. Offord’s second three put Lonoke back up double digits, leading 31-21.

Reid McKenzie put Lonoke up 41-29 with 3:04 to play in the quarter with a tough layup inside the lane. But from there, Heber Springs shot its way back into the game. The Panthers followed McKenzie’s basket with a 9-0 scoring run to cut the ‘Rabbits’ lead to 41-38, but Offord increased Lonoke’s lead to 44-38 on a baseline three pointer as the buzzer sounded.

“Dra Offord hit some really big shots for us and really stretched it out, which is what we needed,” Campbell said. “Dra shot it really well. He hadn’t been shooting it that well. He’d been hitting some. Blake Mack got to the rim several times in the second quarter – had nine (points) in that quarter. We still have to tie up the free throws down the stretch, but we hit enough.”

Lonoke outscored Heber Springs 17-13 in the final quarter. As the game wound down, the Panthers were forced to foul and hope the ‘Rabbits missed their free throws down the stretch. Jamel Rankin and Darrius McCall combined to make five free throws near the end of the game, and Caleb Bracey made one of two at the line with 18 seconds to play that set the final score.

The ’Rabbits outrebounded the Panthers 32-20 in the game. Lonoke was surprisingly the more efficient team at the three-point line, hitting 44 percent of its shots from downtown, bettering Heber Springs’ 37 percent. Campbell would like to see his team shoot better at the free-throw line as Lonoke made 56 percent of its free throws. Heber Springs shot 70 percent at the line.

Three different ‘Rabbits scored in double figures. Mack led the way with 19 points. Rankin finished with 14 points and Offord scored 12 points, all on three pointers.