Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rabs earn road win over Ricebirds

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits improved to 3-1 in 4A-2 Conference play last week with Friday’s 53-30 win at Stuttgart.

The Lonoke girls (6-3, 3-1) lost to Heber Springs in the first conference game of the season last month, but have since won three straight league games, and they were able togradually pull away from the Lady Ricebirds as Friday’s game progressed.

At the end of the first quarter, the Lady Jackrabbits led 15-9, and by halftime, Lonoke managed to gain a double-digit lead, with the score 31-15.

By the end of the third quarter, Lonoke pushed that lead to 20-plus, leading 43-22, and were able to keep that distance on the scoreboard throughout the fourth en route to the comfortable win.

“We had a pretty big second quarter,” said Lady Jackrabbit coach Nathan Morris. “Eboni Willis had six points in the second quarter and went 4 for 4 from the free-throw line.”

Fellow senior Riely Rowton hit a 3-pointer later in the third quarter that helped Lonoke continue to further its lead, and maintain the momentum in the final quarter of play.

In the last three conference games, Morris said his team is showing gradual improvement, but added there’s still plenty to improve upon.

“We’ve still got some things to work on,” Morris said. “We’re not a tournament team right now. There’s still some work to be done, but we’re improving. We’re improving on things that we needed to get done.

“Our transition defense, we keep harping on that. It’s still not all the way where it needs to be, but it was better last week than it was the week before. Hopefully we can keep building on that, and keep finding the positives in all of the work that we’re doing.”

Willis led the Lonoke girls in scoring Friday. She had 18 points. Amanda Sexton was Lonoke’s next leading scorer with eight points. Callie Whitfield came off the bench to score seven, and Rowton came off the bench to score five.

The Lonoke boys didn’t fare as well Friday against the Ricebirds. It was the Jackrabbits’ first 4A-2 game on the road, and the host team won by the final score of 44-36.

Stuttgart doubled Lonoke’s point total in the first quarter, taking a 10-5 lead into the second. The Jackrabbits did, however, outscore the Ricebirds 15-8 in the second quarter to take a 20-18 lead into halftime.

The hosts came out in the third quarter and outscored Lonoke by a point, 12-11, to cut the Jackrabbits’ lead to 31-30 at the start of the fourth, but Lonoke was outscored 14-5 in the final eight minutes, giving the Ricebirds the eight-point win.

“Our shooting percentage has to get better,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell. “We’ve been putting in a lot of time in the shooting part of it. From time to time I see the benefits, and then other times it kind of goes away. So it can be frustrating at times for myself and for the guys.

“We played well in spurts, but our decision-making still has to get better. They’re always going to play extremely hard. That’s never a question, but I got a chance to look at the shot chart, and again, we’re getting to places we want to get to, we’re just not finishing.”

Jawaun Bryant led the Rabbits (3-4, 2-2) in scoring Friday with 15 points. Isaac Toney was second on the team in scoring. He had eight points.

The Lonoke boys and girls resumed conference play at Riverview on Monday, and they’ll play host to North Pulaski on Friday in a pair of nonconference games. Friday’s games will tip-off at 6 p.m. with the girls taking the floor first.