Tuesday, June 10, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Point-less Lady Rabs beset by turnovers

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke girls’ basketball team got in some game time at the Mount St. Mary team camp on Monday. The Lady Jackrabbits have everyone back from last year’s state quarterfinal team, but was without starting point guard Kerasha Johnson, who is still recovering from surgery two months ago to repair a kneecap that kept dislocating.

Mount St. Mary’s and Jacksonville were also on hand, and each team played two 20-minute halves against the other two.

The Lady Jackrabbits beat Mount St. Mary 38-30 to start the evening. After Jacksonville played MSM, Lonoke faced Jacksonville with more disappointing results – a 46-23 loss.

Lonoke pulled away late in the first matchup against the host team. After trailing 16-12 at halftime, Lonoke opened the second half with an 11-2 run to lead 23-18 with 14:10 to play. Lonoke then gave up six-straight points and the Belles led briefly 24-23. MSM’s go-ahead bucket came at the 11:50 mark. Lonoke’s Eboni Willis got the lead right back with 11:34 left and sparked a 10-2 run that put the Lady Jackrabbits in control.

Lonoke coach Nathan Morris called timeout after Willis’ bucket and his team forced a turnover out of the break. That led to a transition bucket before MSM answered to make it 27-26. Willis, Amanda Sexton and Kimistri Balance scored consecutive baskets to make it 33-26 with 2:32 remaining.

After another MSM bucket, Willis scored at the two-minute mark. Jarrelyn McCall took an outlet pass after a miss, pulled up and drained a 3-pointer to make it 38-28 with 1:16 remaining. MSM added an uncontested layup at the buzzer to set the final margin.

While his team rested, Morris watched Jacksonville harass the Belles into 20 turnovers, and predicted a bad outcome when his team took the floor again.

“We’re liable to get 21 (turnovers),” Morris said. “We’ve got a little more speed than they (the Belles) do, but at least they get the pass and get low with it. We’re not getting down and protecting the ball. We’re not getting low to defend. And we’re tired. We’re not in shape yet and it looks like they (the Lady Red Devils) are.”

Morris was even more right than he thought. The Lady Jackrabbits committed 32 turnovers in the 40-minute, continuous clock contest.

Lonoke’s biggest deficit came at 10:17 left in the second half at 42-14. From that point, they held Jacksonville scoreless for nearly 10 minutes while scoring nine-straight points, but Jacksonville closed on a 4-0 run to set the final margin at 46-23.

Not having a point guard also hurt Lonoke against Jacksonville’s relentless pressure, and Morris recognized that.

“I hate that she can’t play with us this summer, but really in the long run, I think it’s going to make us better,” Morris said. “We know what she can do. We need to get some of these other kids some experience handling the ball and handling it against pressure.”

Willis, Sexton and Callie Whitfield each scored eight points for Lonoke while McCall, who led the team in scoring last season, added seven, all in the second half.

“She missed a bunch of shots early, but she’s not going to go 0 for 12 very often,” Morris said. “We want her doing just what she was doing. And the great thing about her is she doesn’t get down, or start crying or get frustrated. She’s such a great kid. She just keeps competing.”