Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits win Goldfish Classic

Leader sports editor

Things did not go very well for Lonoke early in the championship game of the Goldfish Classic. The much longer and deeper Wildcats of Watson Chapel controlled the action in the first half. But the Jackrabbits turned all that around in the second half to take a 54-48 victory at the Gina Cox Center.

The two teams were tied at eight at the halfway point of the first quarter when Chapel guard Leonard Robinson hit back-to-back three pointers to push the Wildcats ahead by six. They extended the margin to 13 by halftime, taking a 29-16 lead into the break.

But the third quarter belonged to the home team.

Lonoke, 10-0, went on a 17-4 run and tied the game at 33-33 with 2:45 on the clock. Chapel even helped. Post player Ben Marcus grabbed a Lonoke miss and put it back in to make it 31-26. A few minutes later, junior Wildcat Xavier Young drew a technical. Lonoke’s Darrius McCall made both free throws, and Jamel Rankin got a three-point play that pulled the Jackrabbits to within 33-31 with 3:15 on the clock.

“I think we just decided to guard better and keep them in front of us,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell. “I think we were playing them too tight in the first half and they were getting by us. They go about 6-7 and 6-5 inside and they bring a couple off the bench just about as big. When you combine the advantage they had inside with the fact that we weren’t guarding very well, you get what you saw in the first half. We just did a better job on defense and we shot it better. That always helps.”

While Lonoke’s shooting improved, Chapel’s outside shooting fell apart. With the Jackrabbits backing off a little in halfcourt defense, the Wildcats began launching more from outside. But after making three treys in the first quarter, they went 0 for 10 from beyond the three-point line the rest of the way.

Chapel, 7-3, took a 36-35 lead into the final quarter and the game was tied at 48 when Datreon Lindsey got inside for a bucket with 1:21 left in the game, but Lonoke finished the game with a 6-0 run to seal the win.

Chapel got a defensive stop and Lindsey took a three pointer from the left baseline. The shot hit the back of the rim and bounced far out into the court beyond the top of the key. Lonoke’s Tykel Gray caught up to it near halfcourt in a dead run, and got an uncontested layup that put the Jackrabbits up for good with 51 seconds left in the game.

Lindsey then missed an 18-footer and Rankin got the rebound for Lonoke. He was fouled and hit both ends of a one-and-one for a 52-48 lead with 24 seconds left.

Even though Campbell preached keeping the Chapel guards in front on defense, McCall went for the steal and got it with 14 seconds left to seal the victory. He was fouled and made both free throws to set the final margin.

Free throws were the difference in the game. Watson Chapel scored 39 points from the floor while Lonoke scored 38. But the Wildcats made just 9 of 18 free-throw attempts while Lonoke hit 16 of 21, including five in a row to end the game.

Tevin Brown led Chapel with 12 points and was the only Wildcat in double digits. McCall led four Jackrabbits in double figures with 15 points. Blake Mack scored 13 and had eight rebounds. Rankin finished with 11 and Gray had 10 points and eight rebounds.

Lonoke also won the rebounding battle with the much taller Wildcats, 32-30. Turnovers were also a major factor. The Jackrabbits gave it up 12 times, but forced 20 turnovers, including seven steals.

The Jackrabbits revive an old county rivalry on Friday when they visit Carlisle for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. They travel to Pine Bluff on Saturday to makeup a scheduled Dec. 10 game with Dollarway that the Cardinals postponed because several players were still in the football playoffs.