Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

SPORTS>>Lady Jackrabbits take district title

Leader sportswriter

BALD KNOB — After winning the 4A-2 Conference championship for the regular season, the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits backed up their title by winning the district tournament in Saturday’s finals against Mountain View 49-40. Senior leadership proved to be the difference, as post players Jenny Evans and Calisha Kirk, along with guard Kristy Shinn all came up big against the Lady Yellowjackets.

Evans got the Lady ‘Rabbits out to the initial lead with three inside shots in the first quarter. Although she would only score one point in the second half, Evans’ defensive play and rebounding ended up being one of the deciding factors in the game. Kirk got Lonoke going whenever the shots began to waiver, driving inside for scores that kept momentum on their side.
While Shinn only had a mediocre night from the floor, the 5’ 10” guard was gold from the charity stripe in the final quarter, going six-for-six at the line, including four in the last 49 seconds to stop a feisty Mountain View comeback from overtaking Lonoke.

“Our seniors were truly the difference in this game tonight,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “Kristy Shinn hitting those free throws was huge. Calisha Kirk really took it them inside. Jenny Evans may not have scored as much as those two, but she did a lot of other good things for us down the stretch.”

Lonoke looked to be in complete control by the 3:04 mark of the third quarter when Shinn hit a jumper at the top of the key for a 33-18 Lady ‘Rabbits’ lead. The Lady Yellowjackets felt the game slipping away, and decided to answer with a brutal full-court press.

Kassie Ross got the rally rolling for Mountain View with a basket and foul shot that cut the lead to 12. A shot for Kirk on the other side was disallowed when she was called for a walk. The Lady ‘Jackets came back with a shot from Kelsey Burns that made it 33-23.

Although Mountain View was able to bind up Lonoke’s offense in the open court, they still had no answer for the inside combo of Evans and Kirk. Neither player shot particularly well in the second half, but the tenacity of their rebounding would keep the smaller Lady Yellowjackets at a disadvantage in the paint. It took four tries combined between Kirk and Evans to get the lead back to 12, with a Kirk miss followed by two put-back attempts from Evans before Kirk was able to get it in with 17 seconds left in the third. A quick score from Burns for Mountain View was answered with a layup by Shinn at the buzzer to give the Lady Jackrabbits a 37-25 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

The game really began to tighten up in the fourth quarter. Ross got the Mountain View crowd in the game with two free throws that she followed with a steal and basket at the 6:52 mark to cut Lonoke’s lead to 37-29. Kirk came back for Lonoke with a basket and foul. She missed the free throw, but Evans came up with the board and was fouled. Evans hit the back end of the two-shot foul for her only second half score, putting the Lady Rabbits back up by 11.

A Candace Clark score for the Lady ‘Jackets on an inbound pass from Ross with 2:38 remaining pulled Mountain View to within six at 44-38, but two more chances for the Lady Yellowjackets were thwarted by defensive rebounds from Evans that left no second chance opportunities.

Mountain View had one last chance to make something happen with 49 seconds left, but Evans stepped up defensively once again, causing a tie-up with Ross that gave possession back to Lonoke. The Lady Jackets began to foul at that point, and the Lady Jackrabbits simply put it in the hands of their best free throw shooter to seal the win.

Shinn led the Lady Jackrabbits with 15 points. Kirk added 12 points, and Evans finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Freshmen Michaela Brown and Asiah Scribner, and junior guard Haley O’Cain also put points on the board for Lonoke in the game. For Mountain View, Ross led in scoring with 12 points. The win gave the Lady Jackrabbits a 21-8 record, and puts them in the No. 1 seed for this week’s regionals in Pocahontas.