Monday, February 23, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Southerners shock Jackrabbits in district

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke boys’ basketball team’s season came to an end at the Gina Cox Center on Thursday. The Jackrabbits fell 55-42 to Southside-Batesville, a team they beat twice in the regular season, in the second round of the 4A-2 District tournament.

Lonoke started the game struggling to make baskets and never warmed up. Despite good offensive rebounding and taking four more shots than the Southerners, the Jackrabbits fell behind 5-0 in the first few moments of the game.

Southside stretched the lead to as much as 13-6 before Lonoke’s Isaac Toney scored to end the first quarter. Southside’s lead stayed between five and eight throughout the second quarter, but the third period was one of runs and droughts.

It started with a Southerner run accompanying a Lonoke drought. The Jackrabbits didn’t score for more than half the quarter. When Southside guard Hunter Tatum drove the distance of the floor for a layup and one, it gave the Southerners a 30-17 lead with 3:17 left to play in the third quarter.

Lonoke coach Dean Campbell called timeout, and the Jackrabbits came out pressing. It changed the game quickly. The Jackrabbits forced four turnovers on Southside’s next six possessions. The Southerners got open layups on the other two, but were rushing and missed them both too hard off the glass.

Lonoke didn’t take advantage of every opportunity, missing some easy shots of its own, but did finish the third quarter on an 8-0 run to close the gap to 30-25 going into the fourth quarter.

Southside coach Brad McGhee calmed his team down during the rest between quarters, and Lonoke’s pressure wasn’t as effective in the final frame.

“I think the difference between this game and the other two is that we handled their pressure this time,” said McGhee. “They pressed us early in this game and we handled it pretty well. I just told them not to get away from what they were doing earlier. They regrouped, got back to that in the fourth quarter.”

The lead stayed around five points until another quick 5-0 run put Southside up 38-28 with five minutes remaining.

Toney sank a 3-pointer with 4:48 left, but Tatum got another and-one to push it back to a 10-point margin with 4:05 remaining.

Lonoke was forced to begin fouling and Southside almost could not miss from the foul line.
Southside finished the game hitting 27 of 34 free-throw attempts, but four of those misses were in the final 30 seconds when all had been decided, including the last two by Tatum, who was 14 of 15 up to that point.

“We’ve been a pretty good free-throw shooting team, but I think we were a little better than usual tonight,” said McGhee. “One thing was that it seemed like every time we went to the line, it was one of our best free-throw shooters. So that helped us.”

Southside hit 43 percent from the floor, including 2 of 3 3-pointers. Lonoke shot 23 percent, hitting 8 of 33 from two-point range, and 5 of 24 from the 3-point line. The Jackrabbits were 11 of 23 from the foul line for 48 percent.

Jawaun Bryant led the Jackrabbits with 15 points while Toney added eight. Tatum led Southside with 21 while Braiden Meade scored 16.

Lonoke finishes the season with an 11-13 record while Southside takes a 12-16 record into the third-round game.