SPORTS >>Former 'Rabbit battles at 'Bud'
By JASON KING
FAYETTEVILLE — Lonoke’s Calisha Kirk got to play one last game with her high school coach, meet new friends, and butt heads with an old familiar rival Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena during the 52nd annual All-Star Classic basketball game. The West All Stars took the win 68-60 over the East, but not without a struggle.
Kirk got to play more than the normally alloted quarter and some change due to a last minute no-show by one of the other East post players. She played the first quarter and part of the second, before taking to the court for virtually all of the second half.
While most of her teammates were new faces, Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris shared the bench with Kirk as one of the East assistant coaches. There would be an all too familiar face on the West side playing post as well; CAC’s Whitney Zachariason.
It was obvious from the opening moments of the game that the former confernce rivals and state finals competitors had no love loss. The action on the low block got very physical at times, with a few good-spirited elbows exchanged from the two players.
Kirk only finished with five points on the night, but made several of the East’s key defensive plays, including a block on Zachariason on a couple of occasions, and a number of steals throughout the contest. The Calisha versus Whitney saga went both ways, however, as the future Lady Razorback got in a couple of blocks on the future Lady Mulerider as well.
West led most of the way during the game, taking a 39-35 lead to halftime. The five-quarter format went suprisingly quick, with the two teams back on the floor for the final two frames less than an hour from when the game began.
By the time the fifth and final quarter began, West had built a 52-45 lead, but the East team would come back on a couple of occasions before game’s end. Kirk started the fifth quarter with a steal, but it would not lead to a score.
A West three pointer gave it their first double-digit lead of the game. P.A’s Ashley Lax would turn into East’s go-to girl in the late going, with a basket to cut the West’s lead back down to eight before a goal and free throw by Mountain Home’s Brittany Richardson allowed East to pull within five, 55-50 with 6:02 remaining.
Two unanswered West three pointers put the lead back in double digits, Gabby Coleman of North Little Rock scored to keep East in the hunt with less than three minutes remaining. Kirk almost came away with another steal in the final two minutes with open court in front of her, but the loose ball led to a tie up, and West would retain possession.
Coleman was able to get the steal and get the ball to Kirk, who then benefitted from a rare foul called on Zachariason. She was not able to convert either of the free throws, but Coleman got another look at the basket and converted to cut the score to four, 64-60 with 44 seconds remaining.
The comeback was not meant to be, however, as the West scored two baskets in the final 30 seconds to take the win 68-60.
Win or lose, Kirk was grateful for the opportunity to play with some of the state’s best.
“It was fun; I got to meet a lot of new people,” Kirk said. “It was even better than I expected. Everybody got along really well. I didn’t play my very best, but I came to have fun, and I had a lot of fun tonight.”
In regards to the final showdown with Zachariason to finish out the rivalry, Kirk said it was merely par for the course.
“It’s always going to be like that,” Kirk said with a laugh. “It will always be that way.”