SPORTS >>Trojans take over late, beat Lonoke
The Jackrabbits were looking to hand Hot Springs its first loss of the season Monday night during the first round of the Searcy Bank Classic basketball tournament at SHS, but instead suffered their first setback of the year with a 55-50 loss to the Trojans after controlling the tempo for most of the first half. The Trojans came out stronger for the second half, and took over by the 4:03 mark with strong play off the bench from Cainan Jordan after junior forward Frank Lewis put Hot Springs in position with a three-point shot to start the third quarter.
Lonoke went into the final eight minutes trailing 36-32, and could not make up the difference despite a three pointer from junior Clarence Harris that tied the game at 41-41 with 3:51 remaining. Lewis answered for the Trojans with four straight points to make it 45-41 by the 2:34 mark.
The brief outside shooting spree by Lonoke continued with a three-point shot by senior guard Bradley Spencer to make it a one-point game at 45-44. Hot Springs went strictly inside for the final minute of play, and the move paid off with 10 points, compared to only six points for the Jackrabbits, three of which did not come until the final three seconds.
“We needed to be a lot tougher than we were,” Lonoke coach Wes Swift said after the game. “We gave up loose balls, offensive rebounds, you name it. All of their shots came in the paint in the final quarter. We think we’re going to be a better outside shooting team than what we’ve been in the past, but we have to learn to go into the post on the pass when the outside shots are not there, and we didn’t do that. When we did, we got in too big of a hurry. We’re not going to panic, we’re just going to get better.”
Lonoke controlled the boards and the tempo for the most part in the first quarter. The Trojans struggled to match the Jackrabbits’ speed, allowing Lonoke to jump out to a 12-5 lead before Hot Springs rallied in the final moments of the opening frame to tie the game at 12-12 heading into the second period.
Harris hit his first shot behind the arc to start the second quarter to put the Jackrabbits up 15-2. Junior post Jordan Lambert added to that lead with a basket in the paint before a jumper by Hot Springs’ Alex Melton cut it back to a three-point game.
Lewis pulled the Trojans to within a point with a pair of free throws at the 4:45 mark. That maed the score 17-16, but Tony Jackson put up another three for the ‘Rabbits that was followed by an old-fashioned three-point play by Spencer. Spencer drew the foul on the lay up, and put the free throw in afterward to give Lonoke a 23-16 lead with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
The Trojans needed a momentum shifter to stay in the game, and would find it on the defensive side of the ball in the final three minutes of the first half. Spencer’s three points from the shot and foul were the final of the first half for the Jackrabbits, but Hot Springs was able to add four more to its totals before the intermission. Willie Isadore added two of those with a pair of free throws at the 2:05 mark, and Jonathon Seymour broke a scoreless drought of almost two minutes by both teams with a jumper in the paint to set the half time score at 23-20.
Improved defense for the Trojans changed the game’s dynamic in third quarter. The easy drives and looks inside by Lonoke were sealed off by the HS defense, forcing a number of rushed and off-balance shots by the Jackrabbits that allowed the Trojans to take the momentum.
Spencer led the Jackrabbits with 26 points. Harris added 10 points for Lonoke. For Hot Springs, Lewis led with 14 points and Isadore added 12 points. The Jackrabbits are now 1-1 on the season, and will take on Batesville/Searcy Thursday afternoon in the opening consolation bracket. The Trojans impove to 2-0, and will take on Searcy/Batesville in the semifinals Thursday night.