Monday, January 12, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Pressure defense elevates 'Rabbits

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits went on the road and picked up an important 4A-2 Conference win on Tuesday, hammering Newport 63-38 and improving to 6-7 overall and 3-3 in league play.
The Jackrabbits utilized the full-court pressure it spent much of the Christmas break working on, and executed it well, according to head coach Dean Campbell.

Lonoke began the year with no returning starters from last year’s state runner up team, and was not playing well as the break approached. But Campbell believes his team accomplished a lot in the last couple of weeks.

“I think the Christmas break did what it’s supposed to,” said Campbell. “There are no classes so you can just focus on basketball for a few days. We got a lot of things done in a four or five day period.

It gave us a chance to get some things lined up and get better. All the varsity experience any of these guys have is what they’re getting this year, so it helped us establish who we are and what we’re going to do as a basketball team.”

One of the things Lonoke did on Tuesday was press, and pressed a lot. The Jackrabbits forced 20 Greyhound turnovers and quickly built a big lead.

They led 42-19 at halftime and successfully held serve in the second half.

“With us going a little bit more up-pace defensively, we’re going with a smaller lineup, and I thought Nick Bates at the five spot did a really good job for us,” Campbell said. “He’s always played with a lot of energy and now things are starting to fall in place for him. The stuff we work on in practice is becoming more of a habit for him.”

More pressure defense means going deep into the bench, and Campbell was pleased with how his reserves played as well.

“You know Bryson Jackson was sick and Kyle Spencer stepped up and did a good job,” Campbell said. “Haven Hunter stepped up and played well. Bryson and Brenton (Bryant) have been switching off on starting, and Brenton played well in Bryson’s absence.

“I think they’ve all started realizing that starting is not a huge deal because minutes end up spread out pretty evenly regardless, just because of what we do.”

Jawaun Bryant led Lonoke with 20 points while Brenton Bryant added 10. Bates and Spencer each scored eight.