Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

SPORTS>>Jackrabbits win top seeds

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits sealed up an outright conference championship Friday knight, whipping Heber Springs with a dominant defensive effort in the second half. The boys also completed an impressive season turnaround, beating the Panthers to lock up a share of the 4A-2 Conference title, and earning the league’s No. 1 seed in this week’s district tournament.

The Lonoke ladies were in a tussle for the first two quarters, but clamped down and held the Lady Panthers scoreless in the third quarter, and gave up just six points the entire second half to seal a 51-28 victory. “We played really, really, really well defensively in the second half,” Lonoke girls coach Nathan Morris said. “We held their best player to two points and no field goals, so you can’t ask for much more than that.”

Lonoke stuck with its recent past of getting out of the gates slowly, and Heber Springs built a 9-6 lead in the first quarter.
Lonoke turned up the heat in the second quarter on the offensive end, scoring 20 points, but the Lady Panthers stayed close with a patient offense and good shooting. Lonoke held a 26-22 lead at the break, and went into halftime with confidence.
Morris had been upset about the recent slow starts, but didn’t feel the need to belabor the point during Friday’s break.
“It was a pretty calm half,” Morris said. “We had talked about finishing as outright champions before the game, so I didn’t mention it again. We mainly talked about things we needed to improve, like our second line of defense, and the girls went out and executed those things.”

Lonoke went on a quarter-long 15-0 run in the third to take a 41-22 lead into the final frame. They quickly made the lead even bigger, allowing Morris to give some youngsters some playing time. Senior post player Crystal Kirk led Lonoke with 18 points and nine rebounds. Jenny Evans scored 11 points and continued her hot shooting from the line, hitting seven of eight free throws to follow her 8 of 8 effort last Tuesday against Marianna.

Asiah Scribner scored nine points and added four assists and three steals. Kristy Shinn scored six points, but it was her play away from the ball that brought Morris’ praises. “We held their leading scorer to two points, and that was Kristy Shinn,” Morris said. “She got into some foul trouble early, so Micaela Brown guarded her too and did a great job. Kristy also got some of her points with putbacks. She did a great job of getting into position for some second-chance points, and that’s a guard doing that, so that was a big help.”

The win lifted Lonoke to 19-8 overall and a final conference record of 14-2. They will play at 7 p.m. Thursday in the semifinal round of the 4A-2 district tournament that began Monday in Bald Knob.