SPORTS >>Lonoke runs away from Searcy
Leader sports writer
There were plenty of brand-name juniors and seniors on the court for the Jackrabbits, but the winning spark was generated by a freshman post player Thursday afternoon during Lonoke’s 68-58 win over host team Searcy in the consolation-bracket semifinal game of the Searcy Bank Classic. Myles Taylor came off the bench for 11 points and nine rebounds for Lonoke, with only a stunning 19-point performance by senior guard Tyrone Dobbins topping him in the scoring department.
The Lions struggled to keep pace with the ’Rabbits for most of the contest, but did manage to erase a 52-37 deficit heading into the fourth quarter with a late surge that eventually got them to within five points of Lonoke in the final minute. The Jackrabbits shook a dreadful performance at the free- throw line in the third quarter to hit seven of their final eight attempts in the closing seconds to secure the win.
For Lonoke coach Wes Swift, the win was earned with the solid surge made in the first half, according to the head ’Rabbit.
“I thought we made a good push there,” Swift said. “Teams that are not as deep as us — we’re trying to wear them down. Most teams will be able to handle our kind of pressure early until they get fatigued. We knew they were going to make a push there at the end, and I thought we handled that pressure well.”
As for the youngster Taylor, Swift said his early prowess was not only expected, but needed by his team during the game.
“That’s a 14-year-old freshman right there,” Swift said. “We moved him up for a reason. He’s a kid that has a lot of skill; he has nice hands. We’re happy with the way he has been playing and the way he’s improving. I thought he was a big part of this win tonight, and he was big during our win over South Side (Batesville) Tuesday night as well.”
While Taylor’s dominant performance inside may have been somewhat surprising for such a young player, senior Dobbins’ game-leading performance was far from the unexpected. Dobbins put the first eight points on the board for Lonoke, including a three pointer at the 3:38 mark of the first quarter to give the Jackrabbits a 10-6 lead.
The only sign of weakness displayed by the Jackrabbits was at the foul line. Lonoke finished the game 19 of 33 at the stripe, but a slump of six straight missed free throws beginning at the 2:10 mark of the third quarter until the 1:46 mark of the fourth quarter could not have come at a worse time. The Lions took advantage of those struggles to close the gap from a 50-35 Lonoke lead late in the third down to a 56-49 advantage by the time junior Michael Howard finally shook the monkey at the charity stripe with a pair of shots to put Lonoke back up by nine with less than two minutes remaining.
The Lions were not without their tough performances, including a tremendous performance outside from senior guard Aaron Coleman. Coleman led Searcy in scoring with 18 points, 12 of which that were converted on first-half three pointers for the 5’9” standout. The Lions matched Lonoke nearly point for point in the first eight minutes, but when the Jackrabbits picked up the pace in the second quarter after near-endless substitutions early, Searcy found moving the ball in man coverage a bit difficult.
A total of eight turnovers for Searcy in the second quarter allowed the Jackrabbits to build a solid lead. Dobbins picked back up on his early heroics with a steal that he took coast to coast for a lay up at the 5:13 mark that gave Lonoke a 22-16 lead.
He then followed a Howard basket with a jumper in the paint to put the Jackrabbits up by 10 for the first time in the game.
Coleman came out strong for Searcy to start the second half with five quick points, and added another three pointer
moments later to pull the Lions to within nine at 38-29, but Howard found Bradley Spencer with a perfectly-executed delay pass into the lane for an easy lay up with 4:47 left in the first half to put the Jackrabbits back to a double-digit advantage.
Lonoke improved its record to 3-1 on the season with the win over Searcy and a 54-37 conference win over South Side Batesville Tuesday night. Howard led the Jackrabbits with 15 points in the South Side game with 10 points added by Clarence Harris. The ’Rabbits will take on the winner of last night’s game between Cabot and Wynne in the fifth-place consolation game today at 1:30 pm.
Searcy falls to 2-3 with the loss, and will play the in the first boys consolation game today at 10:30 a.m.