Leader Blues

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

SPORTS >>Lonoke boys add regional crown, look to state title next

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

BALD KNOB — Lonoke completed step three of a sweep of Class 4A basketball on Saturday with a 65-47 win over Newport during the 4A East Regional finals at Bulldog Arena. It was the Jackrabbits’ fourth win over the Greyhounds in five meetings this season.

The victory added the regional title to the ’Rabbits’ 2-4A regular season title and district title and earned them a No. 1 seed heading into this week’s 4A state tournament in Dumas.

Lonoke will await the winner of tonight’s first-round game between Prairie Grove and McGehee. The winner of that game will play the Jackrabbits (27-5) on Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Much like the past two meetings between the squads, the Jackrabbits relied on a big scoring run during the middle stages of the second quarter to put Newport away for the most part. The score was a narrow 22-19 advantage for Lonoke with 5:19 left until halftime, but the Jackrabbits went on a 12-0 run over the next three minutes to build a 34-19 lead by the 1:58 mark.

The Greyhounds were able to cut the lead to 11 at halftime.

Lonoke’s defense has been strong since the start of the post season, and that trend continued on Saturday. The Jackrabbits held Newport to only six points in the third quarter, while building their lead to 16.

Depth appeared to play one of the biggest roles in the game for Lonoke. Shortly into the game, Pierre Smith, along withLance and Tony Jackson, began a heavy rotation of substitutions. Freshman Myles Taylor began the subbing process at the post just minutes into the contest, relieving starting junior post Juice Lambert on the low block beginning at the 4:48 mark of the first quarter.

The Jackson duo and Smith held their ground against the Greyhound starters, protecting Lonoke’s lead in the final minutes of the first half. Once Bradley Spencer, Tyrone Dob-bins and company returned at the start of the third quarter for the Jackrabbits, they were able to put the game out of reach.

“We’ve been talking about the importance of our bench since day one,” Lonoke head coach Wes Swift said. “You’re only a sub until your number is called. Whenever your number is called, it’s time to get out there and work. They brought a lot of intensity into the game tonight, and I’m proud of the job they did off the bench.”

A putback by Taylor to start the second quarter put the Jackrabbits up 17-12, but the Greyhounds pulled to within three before Lonoke extended its lead to double digits during the final minutes of the first half.

Taylor scored his third bucket of the period at the 3:42 mark with an inside shot to give the ’Rabbits a 24-19 lead, and followed a pair of free throws by Dobbins after that with another goal that put Lonoke ahead 28-19.

Spencer got a steal that he took all the way for two, and followed that with a shot in the paint assisted by Tony Jackson to put the ’Rabbits ahead 32-19 with 2:13 left until intermission.

Lonoke extended its lead during the third quarter with a pair of three-pointers by Spencer, along with a basket by Dobbins to start the quarter, and a goal and a free throw by Smith with a pair of foul shots by Michael Howard in between.

Newport struggled offensively in the third quarter, but its defense didn’t allow the game to get completely out of hand until the final period.

Spencer converted an old-school three-point play to start the final period, and Dobbins added a goal assisted by Howard shortly after that to extend Lonoke’s lead to 53-32 by the 6:24 mark.

Newport finally got a field goal on the scoreboard in the fourth with a shot by Quarmaine Dean with 4:26 left to play, but Spencer scored after that, and then picked up the outlet from Dobbins off a missed Newport shot.

Spencer drove in on the right side with Harris on the other side of the lane, and made a no-look bounce pass right in front of Newport defender Chavez Harris, and Harris chipped it off the glass for two.

The assist was a big hit with the Lonoke-partisan crowd.

Spencer led the Jackrabbits with 17 points, two steals, and three assists. Harris added 12 points and six rebounds, along with four steals and two assists. Dobbins added 11 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Taylor had 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Howard finished with seven points, while Lance Jackson had five points, Smith had three points, and Michael Nelson rounded it all out with 1-of-2 free throw attempts for one point.

For Newport, Cylde Dean led with 10 points, five rebounds and a steal.

The Jackrabbits out-reb-ounded Newport 42-32, and shot 41 percent from the floor and 33 percent from the three-point line. Newport shot 36 percent from the floor and 13 percent from the arc, and had 12 turnovers in the game compared to 10 for Lonoke.