Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

SPORTS>>Lonoke falls late, loses title to CAC

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The state title was so close, it’s hard to imagine how it got away, but it did somehow manage to escape the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits Saturday afternoon. The Lonoke ladies lost 50-45 to two-time defending state champion Central Arkansas Christian in the girls Class 4A state championship game at the Summit Arena in Hot Springs.

The Lady Jackrabbits controlled every aspect of the second half until the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter. They held the vaunted CAC scoring machine to just seven points for the first 11 minutes of the second half, but gave up 18 in the final five.

Lonoke pushed its lead to as much as 42-32, but only managed three more points. Some of that had to do with what Lonoke coach Nathan Morris felt was a bit too-physical defense by the Lady Mustangs, and his expression of that opinion aided CAC’s comeback.

Morris was hit with a technical foul after CAC senior guard Kelsey Hatcher was fouled and sent to the line after a layup that gave the Lady Mustangs their first lead of the half. The layup and two free throws gave CAC a 46-43 lead with 2:06 left in the game. Calisha Kirk cut it to 46-45 with a bucket with 1:35 left, but Lonoke could not score again.

Lonoke senior guard Kristy Shinn stripped Hatcher of the ball after Kirk’s bucket, but Haley O’Cain missed a three pointer that went out of bounds to CAC. Hatcher hit two free throws to make it a three-point game with 18 seconds left, and Lonoke lost the ball with eight seconds left. Hatcher scooped up the loose ball at halfcourt and added an uncontested layup at the buzzer to set the final margin.

CAC coach Steve Quattlebaum was relieved and excited to win his third state championship, but was impressed with the team he said gave his team its most challenging title match.

“First off I have to say that I am impressed with Lonoke,” Quattlebaum said. “I knew they were a good team to get this far, but they’re better than I thought. I thought maybe with a freshmen point guard that our pressure would get to them, but couldn’t do anything with Brown the whole game. We were trying to deny her the ball the whole game, and we couldn’t keep up with her. Their post players aren’t just big, they’re strong and aggressive. I’m just so proud of my kids for finding a way to win.”
Quattlebaum reached back into history to motivate his team when it was down by 10 in the fourth quarter.

“I counted it up and I think we’d played Lonoke 21 times over the last five years, and we had won 19 of them,” Quattlebaum said. “A lot of them were just like this one, so I just told the kids, keeping fighting and something good is going to happen.”
Zachariason led all scorers with 30 points on eight of 11 field goals and 14 of 17 shooting from the foul line.

Kirk led Lonoke with 14 points and eight rebounds. Shinn added 10 points and five steals. Lonoke finishes the season with a record of 26-9. They were the outright conference champions and regional tournament champions this season.