Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

SPORTS >>Jackrabbits get big sweep of Mt. View

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Lonoke got two very important wins Friday at Mountain View. The Yellowjacket boys and girls teams are contenders in the 4A-2 Conference, and play in one of the toughest places to play in the league. For the Jackrabbits to come out of there with a 53-49 win, and the Lady ’Rabbits a 42-36 victory, was a big deal for both teams.

The Mountain View boys are exceeding preseason expectations, but by the time Lonoke coach Wes Swift took his team north to face the 8-1 Yellowjackets, he knew his squad was in for a tough night.

“They were sitting there 8-1 and undefeated in conference; there wasn’t any surprise left to it,” Swift said. “I knew they were good and I knew we needed to be ready to play.”

Lonoke led throughout the first three quarters, but never by much. Its lead was two after one quarter and three at halftime. The two teams turned up the defensive intensity in the third quarter, and Lonoke struggled shooting the ball at the same time. The result was a six-point quarter for Lonoke and a 37-37 game going into the fourth.

Lonoke pushed back out to a six-point lead midway through the fourth, and had a chance to put the game away, but free throws wouldn’t fall. The Jackrabbits hit two of six free-throw attempts during a Mountain View surge that pulled the game back to within a two-point margin.

The ’Rabbits two them when they needed them most. With seconds to go and still trailing by two, Mountain View still needed to foul, and Lonoke got two big free throws from Clarence Harris to put the game out of reach.

Lonoke assistant coach Dean Campbell thought the free throws at the end were indicative of his squad.

“We didn’t shoot well at all, but we got a couple of clutch ones when we had to have it,” Campbell said. “This was our first real road test and we knew it was going to be tough at their place, especially after the up-and-down game we played against Marianna. Mountain View is much more deliberate and controls the ball. It was a big adjustment in styles, but we have a good veteran group that understands how to do both and knows how to make plays.”

Senior Bradley Spencer led Lonoke with 14 points while Harris finished with 13. Mountain View’s Ferris led all scorers with 25 points.

Lonoke improved to 4-0 in conference while Mountain View dropped to 8-2 and 4-1.

Lonoke hit just seven of 15 free-throw attempts, including four of 10 in the second half.

The Lady Jackrabbits also had to battle to the end. Like in the boys game, there was a moment early in the fourth in which Lonoke appeared to be taking control, but the Lady Yellowjackets battled back as well.

After leading by as much as eight points in the fourth, Mountain View came back to tie it at 30 apiece, led by senior Kelsey Burns. Lonoke sophomore Asiah Scribner answered the challenge, scoring 10 of her game-high 21 points in the fourth period.

“Asiah stepped up for us,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “She got three field goals for us in the fourth quarter, and she and Ashleigh Himstedt were able to get to the basket and get to the foul line. We were able to hold them off; that was a tough bunch.”

Mountain View opened the first quarter with the game’s first salvo. The hosting Lady Yellowjackets opened up an 11-2 lead, but Lonoke closed with the final four points of the quarter. That was just the beginning of a defensive stand that lasted the rest of the half.

The Lady ’Rabbits turned an 11-2 deficit late in the first quarter into a 16-13 lead at intermission.

“We didn’t come out and match their intensity,” Morris said. “We couldn’t get anything going from the outside, but we were finally able to start feeding it inside because they weren’t packing the middle on us. We did an outstanding job defensively in the second quarter, especially with Scribner on the bench with foul trouble. That defensive stand in the second was the difference.”

Himstedt and Haley O’Cain each added seven for Lonoke, while Mountain View was led by Burns’ 17.

“That was a very, very good win for us up there, there’s no doubt about it,” Morris said. “That’s a tough place to play. They’re very tough kids, very well coached and just hard-nosed basketball players. Even with all the success we had last year, we weren’t able to win up there, so this was a big one.”

The Lady ’Rabbits improved to 9-3 overall and 4-0 in league play while Mountain View dropped to 3-2 in conference.

On Saturday the boys traveled just down the road to England for a makeup game. The Jackrabbits cruised to a 69-35 win after jumping out to a 22-5 lead in the first quarter. Michael Howard led all scorers with 17, while reserve guard Trenton Spencer added 12.

“We have been trying to get Trenton to adjust and get comfortable offensively, to find what is a good shot for him,” Campbell said. “He’s a defender anyway. He plays hard and aggressive for us on the defensive end. We were glad to see him have a game like that because we need a couple of those bench guys to come along and give us some production.”

The win lifted Lonoke to 9-3 overall.

On Friday the Jackrabbit boys and girls will travel to Stuttgart to close out conference play for this semester. They will be in the Badger Holiday Classic in Beebe over the Christmas break. That tournament begins on Dec. 27.