Friday, December 16, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers down Jackrabbits

Leader sports editor

A first half of back-and-forth basketball turned into a one-sided affair in the second half as the Beebe Badgers defeated the Lonoke Jackrabbits 48-40 in a rekindling of an old rivalry. It had been four years since the Badgers and Jackrabbits met on the hardwood, and Tuesday’s matchup at Badger Arena was an exciting one.

“It was a hard-fought win,” said Beebe coach Ryan Marshall. “We had to earn it. We got down seven with three minutes to go in the third. We got some defensive stops and finally started getting some easy baskets.”

The game featured six lead changes in the first quarter alone, and two more in the second period, one at the very beginning and one at the end of the half.

Beebe (3-5) led 9-8 at the end of the first quarter after point guard D’Andre Butler penetrated the Jackrabbit defense for a layup before the buzzer. Lonoke scored first in the second period, but the Badgers went on an 8-0 run to open up a 17-10 lead.

It started with a 17-foot jumper by Butler with 6:29 left in the half. Landon Davis then hit another long two-pointer for a 13-10 Beebe lead. E.J. Smith then got a steal and passed to Butler for a transition layup, and Brad Worthington capped the run with a putback of a Butler miss with 4:03 left in the quarter.

Lonoke (3-6) came right back. Tyrique Jackson and Isaac Toney hit back-to-back shots to make it 17-14. Haven Hunter then went baseline for a layup to cut Beebe’s margin to one with 2:05 left on the clock.

Tyler Long then scored four-straight for Beebe, but Lonoke responded with two free throws by Toney, and a 3-pointer by Tyrique Jackson that tied the game at 21-21 with 1:20 left in the quarter.

After a defensive stop by Lonoke, Toney went to the line again and made both free throws to give the Jackrabbits’ their first lead since the first shot of the second quarter.

Beebe showed some nifty interior passing when Smith hit Grant Jackson from box-to-box for a tying layup with 22 seconds left in the half. Lonoke turned it over with 10 seconds to go, but Beebe failed to get a shot before time expired, leaving the game tied at the break.

Beebe reclaimed the lead with the first bucket of the third quarter, but Lonoke scored back-to-back buckets for the 10th lead change of the game and a 27-25 lead.

Marshall called timeout and the Badgers came out of the break in a 2-1-2 zone. It didn’t work well initially. Tyrique Jackson made a 3-pointer seconds after play resumed for a 30-25 Lonoke lead. After a failed possession by the Badgers, Kylon Branscomb went to the line. His two free throws capped a 9-0 run and gave Lonoke its biggest lead of the game at 32-25.

The Badgers scored the next 13 points, and never trailed again.

Davis, Butler and K.J. O’Neill scored the last six points of the third quarter to pull the Badgers to within one point.

Steele Harris scored his first basket 15 seconds into the final period. It was the 11th and final lead change of the game.

A minute later, O’Neill got back to the rim for a 35-32 Beebe lead, and Harris made one of two at the foul line with 5:34 to go. After another fruitless possession by Lonoke, Worthington put back an O’Neill miss to make it 38-32 with 4:40 remaining.

With 4:13 left, Haven Hunter was fouled as he scored the Jackrabbits’ first field goal since the 4:04 mark of the third quarter. He missed the free throw and Branscomb was called for a foul on the rebound. That sent Worthington to the line for two free throws that made it 40-34 with 4:12 left.

After a Lonoke turnover, O’Neill went baseline for a layup and a 42-34 lead. The two teams then swapped free throws. Butler’s foul shot made it 45-35, giving the Badgers’ their biggest lead and capping a 20-3 run that began with Beebe trailing 32-25 halfway through the third quarter.

Scoring 25 points in a half is not that uncommon, but holding a good team to just three points and no field goals for an entire quarter was something the head Badger made note of.

“We obviously don’t pass the eye test and we’re not very athletic,” Marshall said of his team. “I don’t know if it’s because we’ve forced them, or if they’ve taken a little pride in defending. That’s kind of been our identity and that’s what we’re going to have to do to.”

O’Neill led Beebe with 11 points, including eight in the fourth quarter.

“I thought K.J., in those last eight minutes or 10 minutes, was finally aggressive with the basketball like we need him to be,” Marshall said. “I thought Steele came in and gave us spark, too, when we were struggling a little bit in the second half.”

Worthington finished with 10 points for the Badgers while Butler added nine.

Toney led all scorers with 16 off the bench for the Jackrabbits. Tyrique Jackson scored 12.

The Badgers played at Clarksville on Friday while Lonoke hosted Episcopal on Friday and Carlisle on Saturday. Look for details for all those games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.