Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

SPORTS>>Rabbits keep pace for share of 4A-2 league title

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Lonoke boys got a big win Friday to keep pace with league leaders Marianna and Heber Springs. The Jackrabbits ran away from Bald Knob to take a 63-41 victory and improve to 12-2 in league play. They trail the two league leaders by one game, but play both of them at home this week.

The Lady Rabbits suffered an upset loss, falling 41-40 at home to the Lady Bulldogs. That puts the Lonoke ladies just one game ahead of Bald Knob and Mountain View with two games left on the schedule. The Jackrabbit boys jumped ahead early and never were threatened. While the effort and intensity were there for Lonoke, head coach Wes Swift wants to see a more focused intensity.“It was better,” Swift said. “We came out with good intensity and played hard, but we missed a lot of chippies that would have made it a lot easier. All the turnovers weren’t good either. I think that was a sign that we weren’t as sharp as we need to be.”

The Jackrabbits committed 20 turnovers, but forced many more than that and got several buckets off of defense. Lonoke picked up a total of 24 steals, and forced over 30 total turnovers. Lonoke led 23-16 at the end of one quarter. The paced dipped slightly in the second period as each team had trouble maintaining possession. Lonoke’s defense held the Bulldogs to just six points in the second frame and took a 35-22 lead into intermission.

The third quarter was played evenly, but Lonoke stretched it out in the fourth period. Applying pressure at the onset of the final frame, Lonoke took advantage of a few more steals and converted them into points to secure the victory. Swift said the defense was a team effort, but specifically commended junior guard Bradley Spencer. “We put Bradley on their best player and he did a good job,” Swift said. “He scored 19 on us over there, and we held him to six this time. That was mostly Bradley doing that because talked about not switching up on him. That was his man.”

Clarence Harris led Lonoke in scoring with 15 points while Spencer and Tyronne Dobbins added 13 each. Spencer also had eight rebounds and three steals. Dobbins added five steals while senior Brock Clement nabbed six steals to lead the team in that category. The Lady Jackrabbits lost their game at the free-throw line. Bald Knob’s defensive strategy was to pack the middle as tight as possible, and if the ball did go in for a shot, to foul. Lonoke responded by hitting 15 of 29 free throws in the game.

“That’s where it starts right there,” Lady Rabbit coach Nathan Morris said. “They were going to foul our big girls, that’s just what they were going to do. And our big girls went to the line and missed.” Lonoke’s guards didn’t shoot well from the field either, which aided the Lady Bulldog victory. With the middle packed in, the guards got open looks from mid-range, but struggled to knock them down. “Our guards are going to have to be more aggressive,” Morris said. “They’re going to have to shoot more, and shoot better. We’re basically getting free throws from the field, and we’re not hitting them.”

The score was 14-10 Lonoke at halftime, but Bald Knob tripled that total with 31 points in the second half. Most of that was due to the play of sophomore point guard Fhagen Altom. Altom penetrated much more in the second half and went to the line often. She finished with a game high 16 points on just three field goals. The rest of her points came at the line. The loss dropped the Lady Rabbits to 18-8 overall and 12-2 in league play.

The hosted Marianna last night, and will host Heber Springs to close the regular season on Friday. They need to win both to clinch an outright conference championship. “Bottom line is, when you’ve got a chance to close out an outright title at home, you need to get it done,” Morris said.