Monday, January 25, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> LHS ladies squeak by Southside

Leader sports writer

The Lonoke girls led after every quarter of Tuesday’s 4A-2 Conference game against Southside Batesville at the Gina Cox Center, and held off a late rally by the Lady Southerners in the fourth quarter to win 50-48.

Lonoke (13-6, 6-4) led 6-5 at the end of the first quarter, 20-15 at halftime, and 39-32 at the end of the third quarter. Lady Jackrabbit senior forward Ashlyn Allen scored on the first possession of the fourth quarter to push the Lonoke lead to nine.

The Lady Jackrabbits led 43-34 on a pair of Mickenzie Williams free throws near the 5:30 mark, but Southside (6-12, 2-7) responded with a 7-0 run to cut the Lonoke lead to 43-41. That run was capped with an and-1 by Southside senior post Tyra Stubbs with 2:35 remaining.

Lonoke’s Keiunna Walker added a basket 11 seconds later to make it a two-possession game, but Southside’s Kessie Jenkins scored on the ensuing possession to make the score 45-43 Lonoke with 2:02 left to play.

Walker and senior teammate Jarrelyn McCall added the next four points to further the Lady Rabbit lead to 49-43. Walker scored on a driving, contested layup off the glass and McCall followed with a pair of successful one-and-one free throws with 1:29 to play.

Southside’s Sydney Sweat put in a short jumper from the baseline with 59 seconds left, cutting the Lonoke lead to 49-45, but the Lady Southerners didn’t score on their next two possessions.

Williams made a one-and-one free throw with 13.1 tics remaining, giving Lonoke a 50-45 lead, and Southside’s Taylor Hammack put in a buzzer-beating three to set the final score.

“It was the kind of game that Southside wanted,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris. “Six-five first quarter, us. Twenty-15 at halftime, us. That was what they wanted to win the game, and we played right into it.

“We slowed down on offense. We didn’t try to get to the basket enough, and then we didn’t defend very well. We did not play very good defense tonight. It was a very low-energy environment tonight.”

Even though Tuesday’s game was a home game, it didn’t feel like one. The student section in the Gina Cox Center appeared to be in the single digits, and the crowd in attendance wouldn’t have even come close to filling the old Lonoke gym, where in recent years it was nothing out of the norm for that gym to be jam-packed to the lobby during games.

Tuesday’s game wasn’t Lonoke’s best, on the floor and attendance-wise, but it was still a conference win, and the second this season against Southside. The Lonoke girls beat Southside in overtime on Dec. 1.

“We’re very fortunate tonight to come out with a win when our best didn’t necessarily have to be there,” Morris said. “Coach (Nolan) Richardson always used to say, ‘a raggedy ride’s better than a smooth walk,’ and that’s what it was. I think we were on a raggedy ride tonight. It was just good enough.”

Walker led all scorers with 19 points. McCall scored 18. Williams and Allen added six apiece and Kiley Studer added one point for Lonoke.

For Southside, Hammack led the scoring with 16 points. Stubbs also scored in double figures, finishing with 10 points.

Lonoke played another conference home game against Heber Springs at 6 p.m. Monday, and will host Helena-West Helena Central in another 4A-2 home game next Tuesday. Tip-off next Tuesday is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the boys’ game will follow.