Tuesday, January 12, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke girls dominate

Leader sports editor

Upsets abound last Friday night at the Gina Cox Center. The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits dominated Chrystin Williams and Central Arkansas Christian 40-33 while the Mustang boys won for just the second time this season in a major 60-59 upset of the Jackrabbits.

The girls’ game wasn’t as much of an upset as it was a very big win. The Lonoke girls (12-4, 5-2) entered the game with a better record than CAC (11-7, 3-3), but no team has done the job defensively on Williams that Lonoke did on Friday.

Williams, one of the top sophomore college prospects in the nation, receiving interest from all the major NCAAW teams from Stanford to UConn, is averaging 28 points per game and has scored more than 30 in the last seven games in a row. She finished with 18 on Friday, but only had seven in the first half, and four of those were the first four points of the game.

“I told my girls if we hold her to less than 30 we could win the game,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris. “She only had two field goals in the second half, but she was able to get to the line a little more. Without a doubt this was our best defensive effort of the season. We had a game plan and the girls did absolutely everything to execute it to perfection. You know me, I’m very, very seldom totally pleased with any game, but it’s really hard to look at how these girls played this one and find something wrong with it. They did everything we worked on and everything I asked of them.”

Lonoke’s own sophomore star, Keiunna Walker, drew the assignment of being the main one responsible for defending Williams. Lonoke played a straight man defense, but overemphasized help when Williams would attempt to penetrate.

It didn’t work at the very beginning. Williams quickly gave her team a 4-0 lead, but from that point until halftime, Lonoke held her to three points and outscored the Lady Mustangs 25-6. It was 25-10 at halftime and Lonoke maintained that margin after a 9-9 third quarter.

“I think it took us just a little bit to realize she (Williams) is every bit as fast as what we talked about in practice,” Morris said. “In fact, I brought in Darrius McCall, who used to play for the boys when they went to the state championship game. He practiced with us last week to simulate the kind of speed they were going to see. I think after that start, they saw what they were up against and knew they had to execute, and they did it.”

CAC pulled to within four points with a minute remaining, but Walker hit both ends of a crucial one-and-one and CAC never got any closer.

Walker and senior Jarrelyn McCall each finished with 13 points, and the duo created a situation CAC had trouble defending.

“They started the game with Williams on McCall,” Morris said. “So Keiunna scored seven points in the first quarter and they switched her off to cover Keiunna. Well when they did that, Jarrelyn hit a three on an inbound play to end the quarter, then hit two more in the second quarter that got us going. So having two scorers helped us tonight, and they both stepped up when the opportunity came up.”

Walker, of course, had to have a few breaks from defending Williams so vigorously, and when she sat, Kaley Woodruff stepped in and took over the duty.

“I’d say it was about two-third to a third time split between the two guarding her,” Morris said. “They both did an exceptional job.”