Thursday, December 31, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> England beats Lonoke in final

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke girls fell into a 15-point hole in the championship game of the third annual Goldfish Classic on Wednesday at the Gina Cox Center. The Lady Jackrabbits made a valiant comeback attempt late, but came up short in the end, losing 64-61 to England.

England (15-1), who also won the 2014 Goldfish Classic, came out pressing at the start of the game and it was highly effective. The Lady Lions forced some early turnovers, and on the offensive end, England made five of its first six shots, which aided in the Lady Lions scoring the first 12 points of the game.

Lonoke’s first basket of the game was scored by Jarrelyn McCall with 4:59 to go in the opening quarter, but England responded with a 6-1 run to take an 18-3 lead.

“The girls came out with real good energy,” said England coach David Mackey. “It carried over from (Tuesday) night. The girls just came out on fire and that 18-3 run really gave us a pep start.”

Lonoke (10-4), though, ended the first quarter with a 5-0 run to cut the England lead to 18-8. The Lady Lions led 23-11 near the midway point of the second quarter, but a McCall 3-pointer with 2:22 left in the half sparked a 7-0 Lonoke run, which brought the Lady Jackrabbits within 25-22 of England’s lead.

That run was capped with a McCall contested layup off the glass with 44 seconds remaining. England, though, took a five-point lead into halftime, leading 30-25.

England found some separation in the third quarter. The Lady Lions were able to push their lead back to double digits, taking their largest lead of the quarter at 49-36.

Back-to-back baskets by Lonoke’s Keiunna Walker got it back to single digits, 49-40, and the margin stayed at nine at the end of three, with England leading 51-42.

The Lady Lions’ last double-digit lead was 58-46. A Kaley Woodruff three at the midway point of the fourth quarter got it back to single digits, with the score 58-49. England junior post Shavonta Blanks got a big basket in the paint with 2:25 to play, which pushed the Lady Lion lead to 60-51.

Lonoke was forced to foul as England held the ball down the stretch. The Lady Lions went 4 for 9 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes. A Woodruff three with 1:30 remaining made it a six-point game, with Lonoke trailing 60-54, and Mickenzie Williams made two one-and-one free throws to make the score 62-56 England with 1:06 to play.

McCall then got a steal on England’s ensuing possession, and took it the length of the floor for a fast-break layup with 53 seconds remaining. That made it a four-point game, with England leading 62-58.

England added the next two points to push its lead to six. Walker made 1 of 2 free throws with 8.9 seconds left to make it a five-point game, and Williams added a contested layup that just beat the buzzer, setting the final score.

“I think that’s the positive spot,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris of the team’s comeback efforts. “We didn’t give in, we didn’t cave. I think the disappointing thing is they (England) did nothing different than they did against us at the Conway St. Joseph tournament.”

Lonoke lost 52-41 to England in the championship game of the St. Joseph Classic last month.

“I wouldn’t feel as bad if we hadn’t already seen that,” Morris said. “I’m a little disappointed in that, but the effort coming back – we had chances here and there. But it just seemed every time we needed a key something, we didn’t get that key something.”

Lonoke finished the game 19 for 37 from the floor for 51 percent. England was 22 for 49 from the floor for 45 percent. From the free-throw line, the Lady Rabbits made 20 of 31 attempts, and the Lady Lions were 17 for 34.

England outrebounded Lonoke 30-23, and the Lady Lions won the turnover margin 14-21.

Each team had three players score in double figures. Walker led all scorers with 26 points. McCall finished with 12 points and Williams scored 11. For England, Alesha Penister led the way with 25 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Tatayana Penister scored 16 and Blanks added 13.