Friday, February 27, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Pocahontas’ guards too much for Lonoke

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits suffered a disappointing, season-ending loss Thursday in the first round of the East Region tournament in Trumann. Two-seed Pocahontas jumped ahead early then pulled away late for a 56-45 victory to advance to the tournament semifinals and qualify for state.

The Lady Jackrabbits entered the tournament hitting their stride and playing their best ball of the season, but Lady Redskins’ guards Ashlyn Ellis and Jessica Seagraves proved too tough to handle on Thursday.

Both teams had everyone back from last year, when Lonoke ended Pocahontas’ season in the first round of regionals last year in Clinton. Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said Ellis was the key difference between the two games.

“She was just a ninth-grader last year when we beat them, and she’s really improved,” said Morris. “She’s gotten a lot faster and plays with more confidence. Now we were able to turn them over quite a few times after they jumped out on us. But we spent a lot of energy getting back into the game and just didn’t have it at the end.”

After falling behind by nine points in the first quarter, Lonoke climbed back to within 20-19 by halftime. But the third quarter started much the same way as the first.

Pocahontas got the ball to start the second half and Seagraves scored. Lonoke failed to score on its first possession, and Seagraves hit a 3-pointer at the other end to make it a six-point game in less than a minute.

“That was a big, big momentum swing right there,” Morris said. “We fought so hard to get back in it, and before you can look up, we’re down six again. We were playing catch-up from that point on.”

Pocahontas held onto the six-point lead throughout the third quarter, then stretched it to double digits early in the fourth. Lonoke pulled back to within four with two-and-a-half minutes remaining, but when forced to foul, the Redskins didn’t miss from the line.

“The point guard went 9 for 11 from the line and we just couldn’t convert,” Morris said.

Ellis scored 23 and Seagraves 22 to lead Pocahontas. Senior post player Eboni Willis scored 15 to lead Lonoke, and was the only Lady Jackrabbit in double figures.

“And she didn’t touch it in the third quarter,” Morris said. “They play a packed in man, really sagging way back. They really hit you hard coming across the middle but they don’t guard you out on the perimeter. And we were only able to hit a couple of threes out of that.”

A bevy of Lonoke players finished with six points, including Callie Whitfield, Jarrelyn McCall, Ashlyn Allen, Kerasha Johnson and Keiunna Walker.

Lonoke ends the season with a 15-14 record, but Morris is still proud of how his squad closed the year.

In its last six games before the regional, Lonoke took No. 2 CAC to the wire on the road, avenged earlier losses to Newport, Helena-West Helena Central, eStem and Heber Springs, and lost in the district semifinals to one-loss Riverview.

“I don’t want to take anything away from our girls,” Morris said. “They were hitting their stride and peaking at the right time. They avenged a tough loss up in Newport. They beat eStem by 18, mercy-ruled Helena and beat Heber Springs by 17. Riverview is better than us, but that second quarter killed us. Everything else in that game is pretty even. So I’m proud of these girls and how they closed out the year. It was just a tough matchup and we weren’t able to pull it off.”