Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SPORT STORY >> Lonoke loses its lead in fourth quarter

Leader sportswriter

NEWPORT – Adversity finally caught up with Lonoke as the Jackrabbits lost their grip on the lead late against Dollarway in a 45-38 loss to the Cardinals in the 4A-2 District Finals at Greyhound Fieldhouse on Saturday.

The rubber match between the two teams was the result of their dominant runs in the 4A-2 Conference during the regular season. Dollarway played as the home team on the scoreboard by virtue of winning the conference with a 13-1 record with its only league loss coming to Lonoke, which finished 12-2 in conference to earn the No. 2 seed entering the tournament.

Lonoke played through the district tournament without head coach Dean Campbell, who was forced to sit out due to a strong case of influenza. Assistant coach Heath Swiney led the Jackrabbits to victory in their semifinal-round game over Clinton on Thursday, and looked to be in a good spot in the second half against Dollarway until the Cardinals rallied early in the fourth quarter to seize momentum down the stretch.

“The disappointment was, we had a chance to push it to six or eight there and missed a couple of shots right at the basket,” Swiney said. “Their length bothers you. We got a little rushed and just missed a couple of those layups there that probably would have sealed the game.”

It was a game of clear and definite momentum shifts as the ’Rabbits struggled early with 12 straight misses to start the game.

Lonoke spent the rest of the game recuperating percentage wise after a 1 of 13 start from the floor in the first quarter, finishing 12 of 45 on the game for 27 percent. The Cardinals got off to a slightly better start at 3 of 7 for the opening period and finished 16 of 39 for 41 percent.

“We had a long layover,” Dollarway coach Ellis Berry said. “It kind of hurt us, but the guys picked it up on defense in the third quarter. Coming out of halftime, we got two quick steals, and that’s really what got us going.”

Turnovers played a big role as Lonoke gave the ball away 18 times and Dollarway committed 16 turnovers, all but six of which came in the first half. Kabian Enjo grabbed a steal he converted with a layup to begin the second half, cutting the Jackrabbits’ seven-point margin at the break to 20-15, and Josh Liddell picked up the steal for the Cardinals on the next Lonoke possession that turned into a dunk at the 7:16 mark to make it 20-17.

Lonoke made the most of its momentum in the second quarter after a slow start. Jamel Rankin put a point up for the Jackrabbits in the first 20 seconds when he hit the back end of a two-shot foul, and Blake Mack added two more foul shots at the 5:08 mark to tie the game at 3-3. The first shot from the floor did not come until 1:21 remaining in the opening period when post player Reid McKenzie took a bounce-pass assist in the lane from Rankin and scored to tie the game at 5-5.

Dollarway tied the game at 32-32 to start the fourth quarter but the Jackrabbits responded with back-to-back baskets from junior guard Darrius McCall to put Lonoke back on top 36-32 by the 4:39 mark. The ’Rabbits had a chance to extend the lead to six, but Mack was called for a charging foul while working his way into the lane for his fourth personal with 3:50 to play.

Although the Jackrabbits came up short on the scoreboard, their gutsy performance in the absence of their head coach spoke to their character, especially with their assistant coach.

“Their maturity level has impressed me,” Swiney said. “They’ve done a great job, and that’s what I told them. They’ve responded well to coach Campbell being out, because it’s different when your head coach is out. They’ve done really well in practice for me, and I’m just proud of them and their maturity level. We will be glad when coach Campbell comes back.”

McCall led the Jackrabbits with 13 points while Mack added 12 points. Rankin and senior guard Dra Offord led rebounding with seven each.

For Dollarway, Dequan Christmas led with 17 points while Davone Chapman had nine points and 10 rebounds.

With the win, Dollarway takes the No. 1 seed from 4A-2 into this week’s 4A East Region tournament at Heber Springs, and will face 4A-3 No. 4 seed Jonesboro Westside today at 5:30 p.m. Lonoke is the No. 2 seed from 4A-2 and will take on 4A-3 No. 3 seed Pocahontas Thursday at 8:30 p.m.