Thursday, December 31, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> ’Rabbits go 2-1 at Goldfish Classic

Leader sportswriter

The third annual Goldfish Classic came to a close Wednesday night at the Gina Cox Center in Lonoke, and ended with a pair of close games in the boys’ and girls’ finals.

In the boys’ final, Malvern overcame a 14-3 deficit at the start of the game to beat England 53-50, and in the girls’ final, England beat Lonoke 64-61. It’s the second year in a row the England girls won the Goldfish Classic.

The Jackrabbits finished third in the boys’ tournament. Their only loss came to Malvern in Tuesday’s semifinal. The Leopards won that game 67-51, but Lonoke won the third-place game over a conference rival that beat the Jackrabbits earlier last month.

The Jackrabbits beat Stuttgart in Wednesday’s third-place game by the final score of 67-58. The win avenged a 52-42 home loss to the Ricebirds earlier in December. Wednesday’s game was tied at 7-7 in the early goings, but Lonoke ended the first quarter on a 5-0 run to lead 12-7, and the Jackrabbits led the rest of the game.

“It’s good in a few different areas,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell of the win. “It’s good because they’re a conference opponent. They did beat us here (in Lonoke). So, I felt like it was important for our guys. We can’t let them feel like, ‘they’re 2-0 on our floor and now we’re going to their place.’

“It’s just as much of a mental thing as it is a physical win/loss on the scoreboard. It was a real good group effort, team effort, and all our guys competed hard and that makes a difference.”

It took a team effort to win Wednesday’s game over the Ricebirds, and it helped the team got a 31-point scoring night from senior guard Jawaun Bryant. Bryant made play after play throughout Wednesday night’s matchup, but his most impressive shot of the night was a half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the first half.

That shot hit nothing but net, and gave Lonoke a 32-24 lead at halftime.

“He was playing aggressive on both ends and playing hard,” Campbell said of Bryant. “There were other people around him that played hard. When the other people around him aren’t playing hard, then the defense doesn’t have to concentrate on them.

“But because others were contributing and playing hard – they (Stuttgart) were really extending what they were doing. There were bigger gaps and opportunities to go score, so he had a good day.”

Kylan Branscomb also scored in double figures for Lonoke on Wednesday, finishing with 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

The Carlisle boys and girls each went 1-2 at the Goldfish Classic. The boys beat archrival Hazen for the second time this season on Tuesday, winning that consolation game by the final score of 57-52.

That put the Bison in Wednesday’s fifth-place game against Bald Knob. Carlisle battled with the Bulldogs throughout, but a big third quarter helped Bald Knob escape with a 69-65 win.

Three different Bison scored in double figures Wednesday. Guard Demarcus Houston scored 11 points for Carlisle and Devon Kendrick scored 16, but senior forward Brynden Weems had the biggest game Wednesday, scoring 24 points and adding a game-high 12 rebounds.

The Carlisle girls lost to tournament champion England 68-46 in Tuesday’s semifinal round. That put the Lady Bison in the third-place game against Class 4A Malvern, and the Lady Leopards overcame a sluggish start to win 57-50.

Carlisle led 7-0 at the start of the game, and held its largest lead at 15-6. The Lady Leopards, though, then went on a 3-point frenzy, draining 5 of 8 threes in the first quarter alone, and by the end of the quarter, Malvern led 17-16.

The Lady Leopards pushed their lead to six by halftime, leading 29-23, but Carlisle closed the gap to 39-38 by the end of the third quarter.

Malvern opened the fourth quarter with a 10-3 run to lead 49-41. The Lady Bison got within 55-50 of the Lady Leopards’ lead with 20.3 seconds left to play, but could get no closer.

Kylie Warren and Arius McClain led the Lady Bison in scoring Wednesday. They each scored 13 points. Warren added six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Elex McClain and Blakely Ellis each scored nine points Wednesday.

Elex McClain added eight rebounds to her stats, and teammates Kayla Golleher and NicQuira Burnett scored three points apiece.