Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

SPORTS>>Lady Jackrabbits topple Star City, vying for state

Leader sportswriter

BALD KNOB – Lady ‘Rabbits post player Asiah Scribner punched Lonoke’s ticket to the 4A state championship game when a rebound off a bricked three-point attempt from Star City’s Brittany House fell directly into her hands, sending the 6’0” freshman to the line with a 36-34 lead during Saturday’s semifinal matchup with 21 seconds left. Scribner hit both ends at the line, giving Lonoke a two-possession lead at 38-34, as the Lady Jackrabbits went on to take the win 50-45 over the Lady Dogs.

As has been for the Lady ‘Rabbits from the start of the post season three weeks ago, the win was both by team effort and perseverance over late-game rallies from their opponent. The Lady Dogs turned up the heat in the third quarter with a man press that caused a pair of ten-second calls on Lonoke, and caused head coach Nathan Morris to burn time outs three different times.

The Lonoke faithful filled up a good portion of the stands, with the student section on the visitors side, and parents and boosters on the home side behind the Lonoke bench. The Lady Jackrabbits celebrated their win by running over to both groups, as Morris received congratulations from boys coach Wes Swift and various members of Lonoke faculty and township. Morris finally made it to the impromptu media area after a brief celebration in the team locker room, doing his best to hold his composure as the players filed out behind him with huge smiles and congratulatory hugs all around.

“We’re just going to enjoy this,” Morris said. “We’ve got a week to get ready for whoever we end up with, so we’re going to enjoy ourselves and get prepared the best we can. I think it is too hard too explain how great this is right now, I don’t think it’s even fully set-in yet.”

Lonoke worked the key several times before going inside to either Calisha Kirk or Jenny Evans on most possessions. Guard Kristy Shinn only made two attempts from three-point range, but both were good for six of her total eight points.

Shinn did not lead in scoring on Saturday, but still reminded Lady ‘Rabbits fans why she has been a favorite to watch for the past two years with an incredible 35-foot shot at the third quarter buzzer. Shinn was under heavy pressure from Star City junior post Tammie Thornton as soon as she caught Scribner’s inbound pass, but took the ball only long enough to set up her aim, jumping up off-balance to launch a shot that hit all cords to extend Lonoke’s lead back to six, 33-26 heading into the final eight minutes.

“Every now and then you get lucky, I guess,” Morris said of the shot. “I guarantee you, we have had shots like that go against us before, so we’ll take it.”

The Lady Jackrabbits were patient offensively for the entire contest, but the first three minutes of the second quarter almost seemed like nap time. Freshman guard Michaela Brown held the ball beyond the key out of any timing zones, and proceeded to stare down House, waiting for the Star City standout to make her move. House finally took the bait, and Brown dished to Kirk, who found Scribner in the lane for the shot to give Lonoke a 14-6 lead by what was then the 4:24 mark, with the possession beginning in the first 30 seconds of the second quarter.

The substitutions for Lonoke were few and far between, with junior Hayley O’Cain relieving Scribner on a couple of occasions, but not until the 2:57 mark of the second quarter. With the offensive game plan focused inside, O’Cain was not much of an offensive threat, but her presence, along with Shinn, would not allow the Lady Dogs to concentrate all their pressure down low. Kirk acted more as a diversion in the first half, with only a single basket through the first two frames, while Scribner came away with eight first-half points and Evans five. When Star City focused more attention to Scribner in the second half, Kirk started making her move, scoring five points in the third quarter, including 3 of 4 at the foul line.

While Lonoke and Star City both had good size inside, Lonoke’s Brown made being the smallest player on the court work to her advantage, using her speed to thwart pressing attempts by the Lady Dogs throughout the fourth quarter.

“The thing with this team right here is, we had a commitment to take it one game at a time,” Morris said. “Even during the conference race, that’s what they’ve done. One practice at a time, one game, and that’s how we’ve continued on. We did a good job today of handling all that pressure from Star City. They are very well coached, and for the most part, we were able to that and not let it bother us.”

Evans and Scribner led Lonoke with 10 points each. Evans added seven rebounds along with one steal and two assists to her totals, while Scribner had a pair of steals and three rebounds. Kirk finished with nine points, seven rebounds, one steal and three assists. Shinn finished with eight points, and Brown had six points and three assists. For Star City, Thornton led with 15 points, while House added 10. Lonoke won the rebounding battle 21 to 15 over the Lady Dogs.

The Lady Jackrabbits will face a familiar foe in this Saturday’s 4A state championship game in Hot Springs, former conference rival Central Arkansas Christian. Lonoke played CAC on of their closes games during last year’s unbeaten season for the Lady Mustangs during the second conference game at Mustang Mountain.