Friday, December 09, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke solid over Searcy

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits put together their best outing of the season Tuesday when they rolled over Searcy 68-51 at the Gina Cox Center at LHS. It was the team’s second-straight win after snapping a five-game losing streak last week against Lisa Academy, but Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said Tuesday’s outing was much better than either of the two previous victories.

“This was the first game we played well all four quarters,” said Campbell. “We got the win against Lisa Academy, and we needed that. But we didn’t play well in the fourth quarter and didn’t put them away when we really had an opportunity to. Tonight against an ever better team, we came out strong and never let up on them. Things kind of evened out after the first quarter, but we never allowed them to really get back into it. We kept the intensity up and just really played our first complete game of the year.”

Lonoke opened up a 24-9 lead by the end of the first quarter, and did it from the inside and outside. Center Kylon Branscomb scored six of the team’s first eight points. Haven Hunter hit a 3-pointer and Tony Bryant got an easy layup after a Searcy miss that put the Jackrabbit up 11-4 with 3:50 left in the first quarter. It also forced a Searcy timeout.

The break did little to help the Lions.

The Lions got a basket by Joe-Todd Smith out of the break, but Hunter answered with another 3-pointer for a 14-6 lead. Tyrique Jackson then got a steal and slam dunk to make it 16-6 with 2:35 left in the opening frame.

After another Searcy turnover, Jackson put back a Branscomb miss for a 12-point lead with 2:05 on the clock.

Searcy’s Michael Money made a 3-pointer to make it 18-9, but Lonoke finished the period with a 6-0 run on another pair of 3-pointers by Hunter.

After Hunter’s four 3-pointers in the first quarter, Searcy put a man on him for 94 feet and stuck to him no matter where the ball went. That helped keep the margin from getting any bigger the rest of the half, but Lonoke’s defense also kept Searcy from mounting any sort of rally.

The Lions got within 32-22 with 1:06 left in the half, but Lonoke finished strong. Campbell pulled Hunter after a few minutes of him being hounded and essentially making the team a four-man offense. He re-entered for the last minute of the half, and Searcy failed to take notice.

Brayden Bryant found Hunter open in the corner for his fifth 3-pointer of the half. Then, after a Searcy miss, Hunter got the rebound and went the length of the floor for a layup at the buzzer that gave the Jackrabbits a 37-22 lead.

Hunter scored 17 points in the first half, and despite being held to two points in the second half, still finished as the game’s leading scorer.

“He had a great half, but it was all about team play,” Campbell said. “One reason he was open so often is because we were finishing and scoring when we got the ball to the rim.”

The two teams played evenly throughout the third quarter, and Lonoke took a 50-34 lead into the fourth. The margin stayed between 14 an 16 until Tony Bryant penetrated and lobbed an ally-oop to Jackson for a one-handed dunk and a 60-42 Lonoke lead. The same duo hooked up again to make it 64-44 with 2:39 to play. Both teams cleared the bench at that point.

Even more remarkable is that Lonoke’s dominant victory came in spite of being on the wrong end of a 26-4 free-throw differential. Searcy made 19 of 26 foul shots while Lonoke went 3 for 4.

“That’s pretty one-sided, but I honestly didn’t even notice it during the game,” Campbell said. “I’m sure I would have if it had been close.”

Jackson finished with 16 points for Lonoke, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Branscomb scored 12 and made it a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Lonoke outrebounded Searcy 26-17, and were remarkable from the floor. The Jackrabbits made 30 of 55 (54.5%) shot attempts, including 25 of 36 (71.4%) from inside the 3-point line. That while holding Searcy (2-6) to just 15 of 47 (32%) from the floor, including 2 of 6 from 3-point range.

Lonoke played at Valley Springs on Friday. Look for information on that game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader. The Jackrabbits will play at Beebe on Tuesday.