Monday, January 20, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke pulls away from Marianna

Leader sportswriter

After a close first half of play in Tuesday’s 4A-2 Conference matchup at the Gina Cox Center, Lonoke separated itself in the second half by getting to the line and making all but one of its 14 free-throw attempts, which helped the Jackrabbits to a double-digit, 63-50 win over Marianna.

Both teams came out hot from the floor, making their first four shots from the field, which led to a 9-9 score. A three-pointer by point guard Jamel Rankin put the Jackrabbits up 12-11 with 3:35 remaining in the opening period.

Rankin’s three was followed by a Blake Mack free throw and a three-pointer from two-guard Darian Young, which put Lonoke up 16-11, but by the end of the quarter, Marianna got another basket to cut the deficit to 16-13.

The score remained tight throughout the second quarter as neither team could get any separation from the other on the scoreboard, and as a result, Lonoke narrowly led 30-28 at halftime. The Jackrabbits separated themselves in the third quarter.

Lonoke outscored the Trojans 17-6 in the third quarter to lead 47-34 at the start of the fourth. The Rabbits got their first double-digit lead of the game with 1:31 remaining in the period on a pair of free throws by Tykel Gray, which made the score 44-34.

With 41.2 seconds left in the period, Rankin set the third-quarter margin by making 3 of 3 free throws after being fouled hard on a baseline three-point attempt.

Lonoke made just 4 of 10 free throws in the first half, but in the second, the Jackrabbits made their first 11 attempts at the stripe, and finished the half 13 of 14 from the line for a stellar 93 percent.

“You’ve got to have stops and you’ve got to have possessions that result in points – somehow,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell. “Whether it’s a made bucket, at the free-throw line – you do all that work to get to the free-throw line and then you come up empty handed.

“There’s a ratio we look at as far as points per possession, and if you can crawl close to the one point per possession, you’re going to be pretty good. It kills you when you go a possession and you don’t come away with anything. We’ve talked about it, we’ve harped on it. For the season, we’re at 61 (percent) from the line and we probably finished pretty close to that for the game.”

Lonoke finished the game 17 of 24 from the stripe for 71 percent, bettering Marianna’s 3 of 9 showing at the line for 33 percent.

Both teams were efficient from the floor. The Rabbits finished 21 of 48 from the field for 44 percent. The Trojans were 20 of 39 from the floor for 51 percent.

The Jackrabbits (13-2, 3-2) made it a point to attack the basket throughout the second half, which led to their plentiful free-throw opportunities. Marianna (7-8, 2-2) had just six attempts from the stripe in the second half and made just two (33 percent).

Marianna cut the Lonoke lead to 10 at the start of the fourth quarter with a three-pointer, but Lonoke responded with a 12-4 run to gain its largest lead at 59-41 late in the game.

Campbell subbed for some of his starters as the game wound down, and Marianna was able to clean up the score as a result.

The Rabbits outrebounded the Trojans 24-20 for the game, and finished with two fewer turnovers than Marianna’s 17. Lonoke’s scoring was very balanced as well.

Mack and Rankin led all scorers with 14 points each. Mack had the most complete stat sheet as he finished with game highs in rebounds (eight) and steals (seven). Young scored 13 points for Lonoke. Gray had eight. Darrius McCall scored seven and sophomore Jawuan Bryant added six.

Marcus Cooper led Marianna with 12 points.

Lonoke played at Heber Springs last night after deadlines in a 4A-2 showdown with the Panthers.

Heber Springs entered last night’s game as the only undefeated team in conference play. Look for details of that game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

The Jackrabbits have another big conference game Tuesday against Dollarway at home. Tuesday’s game will tip-off at approximately 7:30 p.m.