Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

SPORTS>> Lonoke snuffs out Stuttgart Ricebirds

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

The Jackrabbits and Lady ‘Rabbits went into the holiday break on a winning note, sweeping Stuttgart at home Friday night in a pair of 2-4A Conference games. The visiting Ricebirds took Lonoke down to the wire until a charging foul on Tevin Robinson with 48 seconds left gave the ball and the game to the Jackrabbits by a score of 54-48. The Lady Jackrabbits held the Lady Ricebirds to 10 points through three quarters before activating the mercy rule in the final frame for a dominating 46-15 win, keeping their league record perfect through five games and putting them in a tie for the conference lead. The ‘Rabbits dominated the first quarter until Stuttgart closed a 13-3 deficit at the 2:37 mark down to 14-8 by the end of the period. Lonoke never trailed in the contest, but could never extend the lead back to the brief double-digit advantage it enjoyed in the first minutes of the game.

“When you stop scoring, your defense goes down,” ‘Rabbits coach Wes Swift said. “We were up by 10 at one point and just quit scoring. We weren’t getting the ball to our post players, which is something we have been working on. Maybe it was a trust issue, with both of them being sophomores, but it is something we are going to continue working on.”

Robinson became harder and harder for Lonoke to contain in the second half. After being held to only seven points in the first half, the sophomore Ricebirds standout put up nine points in the third quarter. A bank shot from Robinson with 1:29 left in the third quarter cut Lonoke’s lead to 36-33, but Sammy Coleman responded for the ‘Rabbits with a pair of free throws, followed by a three pointer with 33 seconds left in the third to put the lead at 41-33. A steal and layup from No. 23?? gave Lonoke a brief 10-point lead at 43-33, but Philip Sykes scored before the third quarter buzzer to cut it back to eight. Robinson’s only points of the fourth quarter cut Lonoke’s lead to 46-45 with 3:45 left in the game, but when his magic touch ran out soon thereafter, the Jackrabbits took advantage and sealed the win going away.

Robinson tried for the lead on the next Stuttgart possession, but his shot fell short, and Bradley Spencer pulled down the rebound for Lonoke. The biggest play for the ‘Rabbits came on the ensuing possession, when Stanley Staggers scored on the put-back of a missed shot by Spencer, and drew the foul from Garrison Vaughn. Staggers hit the foul shot, putting Lonoke up by five, 50-45 with 1:41 remaining. A three-point shot from Vaughn 20 seconds later would give Stuttgart one last gasp of air, but Spencer drew the charge from Robinson on the Ricebirds’ next possession to deny any chance of a comeback.
Spencer led the Jackrabbits with 10 points. Coleman added nine points for Lonoke, and NO>1?? Had eight points. For Stuttgart, Robinson led all scorers with 18 points. The win improves Lonoke’s record to 8-4 on the season and 4-1 in conference play.

The Lady ‘Rabbits had an easy time with the Lady Ricebirds on Friday, dominating the contest from the opening tip on. Lonoke jumped out to a 10-4 lead after the first quarter with strong play inside from senior post Calisha Kirk. Kirk scored six points during the opening frame, along with shots from Jenny Evans and Asiah Scribner.

Both teams struggled during the second quarter, and the score at the half was 17-6. Lonoke came out even stronger in the second half, improving their lead to 27-10 by the start of the fourth quarter. A pair of free throws from Michaela Brown with 2:25 left in the game increased Lonoke’s lead to 45-15 and activated the mercy-rule. Both teams went sub-heavy at that point, and Brown added one more free throw in the last minute of the game to set the final margin.

“Early on, they had some trouble scoring against us,” Lady ‘Rabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “Down the stretch, I thought our guards did an outstanding job. Michaels Brown hit those free throws, and Kristy Shinn came up with about seven rebounds there. I told the kids that playing in December, we would have to be ready. I think our freshmen have adjusted to varsity basketball. They seem to be taking care of the ball a lot better now.”

Kirk led Lonoke with 17 points. Evans added 11 points for the Lady Jackrabbits. For Stuttgart, Sherick Withers led with five points. The win gives the Lady Jackrabbits an 8-5 overall record, and puts their conference record at 5-0, tying them with the Heber Springs ladies for the 2-4A lead. The Jackrabbits and Lady Jackrabbits will take part in the White County Medical/First Security Christmas Classic at Beebe starting Thursday morning.