Friday, January 27, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke ladies topple eStem

Leader sports editor

The Lady Jack-rabbits picked up an important win on Tuesday at the Gina Cox Center. In what was technically a road game, the Lonoke ladies put themselves alone in second place in the 4A-2 Conference with a 47-42 victory over eStem Charter.

ECS doesn’t have its own gymnasium, and couldn’t secure one for the makeup date of their matchup with Lonoke that was canceled on Jan. 6 because of snow.

So playing at home in road uniforms, the Lady Jackrabbits started fast, and held on for a big win.

“I sure thought it was big,” said Lonoke coach Heath Swiney. “We came out focused and that was important against a team like that. They’re so long, and so quick and so athletic, they can make it hard on you if you’re not playing your best.”

Lonoke (15-5, 10-1) opened the game in a 2-2-1 defense that extended to midcourt. That troubled the eStem ball handlers and Lonoke was able to force several turnovers early. The Lady Jackrabbits held an 11-4 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

“We didn’t steal it a whole lot, we just got them to make mistakes with it,” Swiney said. “They handled it better and we backed off it a little bit in the second quarter, but I still thought we were playing really well at halftime.”

Lonoke’s lead extended to 26-15 by intermission, and the officiating grew tight in the second half. Lonoke went back to its pressure and eStem also applied some in the second half.

The result was a defensive struggle and a lot of free throws. That’s where the Lady Jackrabbits maintained control of the game.

Even though eStem (16-9, 8-3) shot 21 foul shots to 14 for Lonoke, the Lady Mets only made one more. They were 12 of 21 while Lonoke was 11 of 14.

“That’s another sign that we were focused,” Swiney said. “I knew they were going to make a run. They’re too good not to. We just had to weather it, stay under control and make our free throws. They forced us into a few turnovers and got some rebounds we should’ve had, but for the most part we did what we needed to do.”

Lonoke junior Keiunna Walker led all scorers with 27 points.

The win set up last night’s big matchup with No. 1 ranked Central Arkansas Christian. The Lady Mustangs entered that game 18-2 overall and 10-0 in league play. Lonoke took them to overtime at CAC on Dec. 20 before falling 44-38. That was the last game the Lady Jackrabbits lost. They have won eight-straight since then.

Look for details of Friday’s game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

The Lonoke boys (9-12, 4-7) lost their game to the Mets 83-73.