Tuesday, December 02, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke ladies dominate GPHS

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY – The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits bounced back from last week’s conference loss to Heber Springs in a big way Monday by beating Guy-Perkins in the first round of the Conway St. Joseph Classic by the final score of 83-65.

Lonoke scored at least 40 points in each half, and did so, in large part, by taking high-percentage shots. The Lady Jackrabbits made it a point, especially in the second half, to get the ball inside to its post players and forwards, where they had the noticeable size advantage.

“We fed the post a little bit better,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris. “I think there was a time or two that we didn’t and we wanted to, but we have to make an emphasis to go there, and then it can come back out for shots – not swing it around and shoot. We have to be able to get the ball in there.”

All five of Lonoke’s starters scored in the opening quarter, doubling the Lady Thunderbirds’ point total in that time to lead 24-12 at the start of the second quarter.

By the end of the first half, the Lady Jackrabbits pushed their lead to 15. Senior point guard Kerasha Johnson scored the final four points of the half. She sank a one-handed floater with 24 seconds remaining, and made two free throws with 7.7 tics left to give Lonoke a 43-28 advantage at the break.

Senior post Eboni Willis scored Lonoke’s first six points of the second half and with 4:37 left in the third quarter, Willis added another inside bucket that put her team up 21, leading 53-32.

Lonoke upped its lead to 25 after forward Ashlyn Allen followed her own miss with a putback in the final minute of the quarter, giving the Lady Rabbits a 66-41 lead, but the Lady Thunderbirds ended the quarter with a 5-0 run that cut the Lonoke lead to 66-46 by the start of the fourth.

The Lady Rabbits opened the fourth quarter with a 4-0 start, thanks to a pair of inside buckets by seniors Riely Rowton and Amanda Sexton, which pushed Lonoke’s lead to 70-46 and forced a Lady Thunderbirds’ timeout.

Lonoke (3-1, 0-1) led by 20-plus points for most of the fourth quarter. Guy-Perkins (5-6) got its deficit back to the teens on a pair of free throws by Abigail Smith with 3:30 to play. Smith’s free throws made the score 76-58 Lonoke, but it wasn’t long before the Lady Rabbits pushed their lead back to 20-plus.

However, the Lady Thunderbirds got their deficit back into the teens on two more free throws in the waning seconds, which also set the final score.

“It’s hard to play against a team like Guy-Perkins,” Morris said. “They like to shoot it. They like to shoot it quick and rebound it. They’re never out of a ball game. I’ve seen 20-point games against them change really quick.

“It’s a tough team, but it’s a good game to have coming out of Thanksgiving, because your legs haven’t worked a lot and they had to work them.”

In the second half, Lonoke made 17 of 27 shots from the floor for 63 percent. Conversely, Guy-Perkins was 10 of 24 from the floor in quarters three and four for 42 percent.

Lonoke had just three attempts from the 3-point line in the second half, missing all three attempts. Guy-Perkins made one 3-pointer in the second half, but had 14 attempts from beyond the arc.

Smith led all scorers with 24 points. Willis and Jarrelyn McCall, though, led Lonoke with 21 points each. Johnson added 12 points for Lonoke, and Allen 10. Sexton finished the night with eight points. Kimistri Balance added six points and Rowton had five.

Lonoke played its second 4A-2 Conference game of the season at home against Southside Batesville last night after deadlines, and they’ll travel back to Conway St. Joseph tomorrow to play the Conway St. Joseph/Perryville winner in the semifinals of the tournament. Tomorrow night’s game tips off at 7.