Friday, February 17, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke vs. CAC in finals

Leader sports editor

STUTTGART – The Lady Jackrabbits won two games in the 4A-2 District Tournament in Stuttgart, and will play for the district championship at 4:30 p.m. today against No. 1 ranked Central Arkansas Christian.

Because of the blended conferences put in place this year by the Arkansas Activities Association, Lonoke had not played either Southside-Batesville or Heber Springs in the regular season.

On Tuesday, the Lady Jackrabbits beat Southside-Batesville 45-35 in a very slow-paced game. In Thursday’s semifinals, they defeated Heber Springs 50-46.

“I felt like we played a really strong three quarters against Heber,” said Lonoke coach Heath Swiney. “We didn’t play very well in the third quarter and got behind. But we made the plays in the fourth quarter to get us a win.”

Even though junior guard Keiunna Walker scored 33 of the team’s 50 points, other players made key plays down the stretch.

Kaley Woodruff hit a layup at the buzzer to end the third period that tied the game after the Lady Panthers had taken the lead. Lonoke fell behind again, this time by three points, late in the fourth period. Kennedy White stepped to the line with about a minute remaining and made two free throws that also tied the game.

Scoring was much more balanced on Tuesday. Walker led the way with 17, but Woodruff and Mickenzie Williams scored seven apiece, while White and Mia Brown scored six.

“The more people involved, the better it makes everybody,” Swiney said. “Everybody knows teams are going to key on her (Walker). So your other ones are getting wide-open looks. All our kids, I feel like, can hit wide-open looks.

“Against Southside, Keiunna was in foul trouble. I looked at Mia and said, ‘you’re going to have to shoot it. They’re leaving you open. She went back in and hit two 3-pointers in the next few possessions. Any given night, any of these kids can be the one to step up.”

Lonoke (19-7) will play CAC for the third time this year. The Lady Mustangs swept Lonoke in the regular season, but both games were very competitive.

CAC (26-2) has only lost to Class 7A North Little Rock, and a team from Sacramento, Calif. In the first game against Lonoke, the Lady Mustangs pulled out a 53-49 overtime win at CAC.

Two weeks ago at Lonoke, they opened the second half with a 13-0 run to turn a tie game into a 69-54 win.

CAC sophomore Christyn Williams is one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation. Knowing where she is will be key if Lonoke can reverse previous outcomes.

“We’re going to work these two days on what he (CAC coach Steve Quattlebaum) did a little different,” Swiney said. “He came out that second half in a 1-2-2 and extended it out. I hadn’t seen that from him, and it’s partly my fault for not making good enough adjustments. We have to do a better job of not being in a hurry, moving without the ball and knowing where Williams is. You get sped up and throw it in her direction, she can take it from you. We’re going to give it our best shot.”

The Lonoke boys beat Riverview 71-68 in overtime on Wednesday to qualify for regionals. They lost 67-36 in the semifinals to No. 1 ranked Baptist Prep. The Jackrabbits (11-14) will face eStem (12-17) at 3:00 p.m. today to determine the three and four seeds at next week’s Region 2 tournament in Cave City. Baptist Prep will face sixth-seeded Helena-West Helena Central (7-11) in the championship game tonight.