Monday, February 24, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke ladies vie for top seed today

Leader sports editor

MARIANNA – The Lady Jackrabbits earned a trip to the 4A-2 District tournament championship game with a 62-38 win over Stuttgart on Thursday.

Stuttgart finished sixth in the regular season, but upset No. 3 seed Clinton 50-47 in the quarterfinal round, earning a berth in next week’s regional tournament that Clinton is hosting.

The win also spared Lonoke the task of facing one of the two conference teams it lost to this season, but the other one awaits on Saturday. Lonoke will face Heber Springs for the third time this year in the championship game that will also determine the top seed in the East Regional at Clinton.

Lonoke coach Nathan Morris likes his team’s chances if it plays the way it did on Thursday.

“I just thought it was a great all-around team effort,” said Morris. “We came out playing really well and executing on offense. We had good defensive intensity. Everything was there for us. There were some lapses where it got kind of wild there in the second half. But it’s hard for young kids to keep up that intensity when they look up at that scoreboard and it’s 25 points. Overall I’m very pleased with how we played.”

Lonoke’s immediate start wasn’t so great. The Lady Jackrabbits turned it over on their first three possessions, but gave up just one free throw and forced two Stuttgart turnovers, minimizing the damage to just a 1-0 deficit.

Jarrelyn McCall got Lonoke on the board with a mid-range jumper a minute into the game, and it was the first two of 16 in a row by the Lady Jackrabbits. Stuttgart didn’t manage a field goal until 1:31 left in the quarter that made it 16-3.

Lonoke gave up just two more field goals in the second quarter, but Stuttgart hung in there at the free-throw line. The Lady Ricebirds got to the line 15 times in the second quarter, but Lonoke still went into intermission with a 33-13 lead.

The foul count didn’t even out in the third quarter, and in fact became even more lopsided. Lonoke started the third with a 10-2 run and flirted with the mercy-rule margin of 30 points when it took a 43-15 lead with 5:15 left in the period, but then the fouls began to mount. Lonoke was called for seven fouls before Stuttgart was called for one, and the quarter ended with a 9-2 foul count.

The Lady Jackrabbits took a 48-26 lead into the fourth quarter, which was played by backups for the last five minutes.

McCall led all scorers with 22 points while Amanda Sexton added 12 for the Lady Jackrabbits. Lonoke hit 9 of 13 free-throw attempts while Stuttgart went 15 for 31.