Wednesday, December 09, 2015

SPORTS >> Lonoke teams lose in St. Joseph finals

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY – The Lonoke boys’ and girls’ basketball teams advanced to the finals of the 21st annual St. Joseph Classic, but both came up short in Saturday’s finals.

The Lonoke girls held a five-point lead over England after a quarter of play in the girls’ final, but the Class 2A Lady Lions took the lead in the second quarter and maintained it the rest of the game and won 52-41.

The boys’ game wasn’t as close. The Jackrabbits ran into a talented and undefeated Guy-Perkins team that won the boys’ final 67-41.

In the girls’ game, Lonoke (5-2, 1-1) jumped out to a 10-4 lead to start and the Lady Rabbits held their largest lead at 12-5. England (7-1) scored the final points of the opening quarter, which cut Lonoke’s lead to 12-7 at the start of the second.

England turned up the pressure in the second quarter, and Lonoke struggled against that pressure. As a result, the Lady Lions were able to force turnovers and open the second quarter with a 10-0 run and take the lead at 17-12.

That run ended with back-to-back 3-pointers by England guard Amber Martin, prompting Lonoke coach Nathan Morris to call timeout with 5:11 left in the half.

Lonoke fought back and tied the game at 18-18 on a fast-break basket by Ashlyn Allen, but England retook the lead shortly after and ended the half with a 7-2 run to take a 25-20 lead into halftime.

It didn’t help Lonoke that leading scorer Keiunna Walker sat the second quarter because of foul trouble. She picked up three fouls in the first quarter.

“We got a little bit shell-shocked there in the second quarter,” said Morris. “We got in a little bit of foul trouble. We had to put our leading scorer on the bench with a little bit of foul trouble and I think that hurt us. That hurt us rhythm-wise, where we would’ve liked to have had her on the floor.” 

Martin opened the second half with another three to give England an eight-point cushion. Near the five-minute mark, Lonoke closed the gap to 30-26 on a Walker 2-pointer off a Jarrelyn McCall inbound lob underneath the basket.

Foul trouble continued to hinder Lonoke in the second half, but some of those fouls against Lonoke were ticky-tacky calls, and the officials missed some blatant ones that should’ve been called on England.

England had eight foul shots in the third quarter to Lonoke’s zero, but the Lady Lions only made one of those foul shots. What really benefitted England in the third and fourth quarters were its second- and third-chance points because Lonoke struggled to rebound against the more aggressive Lady Lions.

“Probably the most disappointing thing was second-chance effort,” Morris said. “We gave up way too many second-chance opportunities for them – second and third. It got us that game. It got us against Heber Springs. It about tossed us in another game, and we have got to commit to being better block-out rebounders.

“We can’t take the kind of charges that we take and play defense the way we play – play tough, aggressive defense and then not block somebody out. That’s on me and it’s something we’ve got to improve.”

Toward the end of the quarter, England’s lead grew to nine, but Walker added a putback with three seconds remaining to make it a 37-30 game at the start of the fourth.

The Lady Lions scored the first two points of the fourth, but around the halfway point, Lonoke made it a four-point game, with the score 42-38, on consecutive buckets by Walker and McCall.

That was as close as Lonoke would get the rest of the way, though, and England all but sealed the game with 2:14 remaining on a corner three by Tatayana Pennister that pushed the Lady Lion lead to 47-38.

England held the ball with 1:30 remaining, forcing Lonoke to foul the rest of the way. In the final seconds, England’s Julia Bryant set the final score by making 1 of 2 free throws.

Neither team shot well from the free-throw line, but England had double the attempts. Lonoke made 6 of 19 shots from the line for 32 percent. England made 17 of 40 free throws for 43 percent.

England outrebounded Lonoke 25-19 in the second half, but the Lady Lions had several offensive rebounds that led to their second- and third-chance opportunities.

Walker led Lonoke with 19 points. Allen had 11. For England, Pennister led the way with 17 points. Bryant scored 12 points and Martin added 10.

In the boys’ game, Guy-Perkins (16-0) jumped out to an 11-1 lead and led 17-8 at the end of the first quarter. By halftime, the Thunderbirds pushed their lead to 38-18. The lead grew to 27 by the end of the third quarter, with the score 57-30.

Near the five-minute mark of the fourth, GP pushed its lead to 65-35, which invoked the sportsmanship rule.

Kylan Branscomb led Lonoke (5-2, 1-1) with nine points Saturday. Haven Hunter scored eight points. For GP, senior point guard Tim Campbell, who was nearly in range once he crossed half court, led all scorers with 25 points. Tre Minton scored 16 points, Joshua Ballard had 12 and Coree Ealy added 10.