Tuesday, December 02, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Rabbits frustrated in loss

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY – Questionable foul calls, bad shot selection early, and a lack of consistency on defense all contributed to Lonoke’s 81-68 overtime loss to Guy-Perkins on Monday in the first round of the Conway St. Joseph Classic.

It was the first loss of the season for Lonoke (2-1, 1-0), who was coming off a 4A-2 Conference-opening win over Heber Springs last week. Monday’s game with the Class 1A Thunderbirds was close throughout, but the margin of foul calls wasn’t, especially in the early goings.

For the game, Lonoke finished with 29 fouls called against them. Guy-Perkins was called for a total of 16 fouls. A good portion of the early fouls called against Lonoke were iffy, which frustrated the inexperienced Jackrabbits.

“I feel like we were attacking and doing the same things, and we weren’t getting the same result,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell of the fouls called. “So our guys got frustrated, and that’s going to happen with a young group. We’ve got to keep fighting.

“I hate tonight’s game because we’ve got to play three in a row now, but in the grand scheme of things, (Tuesday’s game) is more important than tonight’s was. We’ve got to take care of tomorrow (Tuesday) night. That’s more important.”

Lonoke played its second 4A-2 Conference game of the season last night at home against Southside Batesville. Look for details of that game in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

The first quarter of Monday’s game with Guy-Perkins (6-5) was back and forth, and the Jackrabbits were ahead on the scoreboard toward the end of the quarter, but the Thunderbirds took the lead on a Corey Ealey contested lay-in that just beat the buzzer, and made the score 18-17 Guy-Perkins.

Guy-Perkins held the lead for most of the second quarter, but it never got much separation from the Jackrabbits on the scoreboard. Trailing 32-30, Lonoke’s Tyler Spencer tied the game at 32 apiece on a short baseline jumper with less than a minute remaining.

However, Guy-Perkins took a one-point lead into halftime on a free throw by Matt Baker, who was sent to the line because of a bogus foul call on Lonoke post player Byron Fair in the waning seconds of the half.

Baker, who got away with a blatantly unsportsmanlike shove on Fair earlier in the quarter, put his team up 33-32 at the half with the free throw.

Lonoke made 50 percent of its shots in the first half, but went 2 of 10 from the 3-point line. Guy-Perkins made 63 percent of its shots in the first half on 12 of 19 shooting.

The questionable foul calls against Lonoke continued in the second half, which helped the Thunderbirds build a double-digit lead midway through the third quarter, leading 50-40.

Lonoke then went to its full-court press, and went on a 7-2 run before Thunderbird guard Sam Gonzalez sank two free throws after a bogus technical foul was called on Lonoke’s Justin Meadows with 1:04 left in the quarter.

Meadows was making a play on the ball while trying to get a steal at midcourt, and instead of getting called for a foul on the reach-around, he was given a technical foul for what the official said was a push on Gonzalez.

Gonzalez’s free throws gave Guy-Perkins a 54-47 lead, and at the end of the third quarter, the Thunderbirds led 55-49. Lonoke opened the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run to tie the game at 55-55, and the Jackrabbits took the lead on a transition layup by Tamarrea Moore after a steal and dish by teammate Brenton Bryant.

Moore’s layup put Lonoke up 59-57 with 4:33 to play, and it was back and forth from there to the end of regulation. Guy-Perkins retook the lead with 43 seconds left in the fourth on an inside bucket by Spencer Brown, which made the score 66-65.

Lonoke tied the game at 66-66 on a free throw by Jawaun Bryant with 18.5 seconds left, and with 3.5 tics remaining in regulation, Guy-Perkins’ leading scorer Cole Dixon was sent to the line for two shots that would’ve won the game for the T-birds, but he missed both free throws, sending the game to overtime with the score tied at 66.

The Jackrabbits scored the first points in overtime on a basket by Spencer less than a minute into the extra period, but it was all Guy-Perkins from there. After Spencer’s bucket, the Thunderbirds closed the game with a 15-0 run to set the final score.

“We’re going to really concentrate on defending the ball and being in the right position to help, blocking out and finishing plays,” Campbell said. “Those things we’ve got to fix.

“Our kids are giving good effort. That’s never been an issue. I knew that was never going to be an issue with this group, but our basketball IQ has to improve.”

Lonoke finished the game 29 of 65 from the floor for 45 percent. Guy-Perkins made 25 of 41 shots for 61 percent. The T-birds made 27 of 40 free throws for 68 percent. Conversely, the Rabbits went 7 of 16 from the stripe for 44 percent.

The Jackrabbits outrebounded the Thunderbirds 31-23, and finished with one fewer turnover, 25, than the victors had (26).

Dixon led all scorers with 28 points. Meadows led Lonoke with 12 points. Nichalas Bates added 10 points for the Rabbits. Spencer had nine. Jawaun Bryant had eight. Anthony Morris had seven. Isaac Toney had six. Brenton Bryant, Fair and Moore had four points each, and Yancy Cooney and Bryson Jackson had two points apiece.

The Lonoke boys play again at 8:15 tonight in the first consolation game of the Conway St. Joseph Classic. They’ll play the loser of last night’s game between the tournament hosts and Perryville.