Leader Blues

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

SPORTS >> ’Rabbits hold off Panthers in finale

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

With their second-straight 2-4A Conference title already in hand, the Lonoke Jackrabbits found motivation for Friday’s game at Heber Springs a little difficult. The Panthers stayed close until late, when Lonoke finally put them away with 27 points in the final quarter to take a 74-64 win.

The Panthers were up for the game. A two-game winning streak, senior night and saying goodbye to their old gymnasium made for a Heber team that was ready to pull off a major upset.

“We didn’t play well at all, especially defensively,” Lonoke coach Wes Swift said. “They had a lot of emotion going into that game, and they have been playing well at the end of the season.

“The guys that were supposed to make big plays finally started doing that in the fourth quarter, but I have to give Heber a lot
of credit. I thought they played well.”

The Jackrabbits had been focusing on their post game for the previous couple of practices, but early foul trouble for Juicy Lambert, combined with the sudden illness of freshman post Myles Taylor, blew previous plans out of the water, and made the team much, much smaller.

Lonoke led 37-28 at halftime, but the Panthers rallied in the third quarter to make it a one-point game heading into the final period. At that point, seniors Bradley Spencer and Tyrone Dobbins came alive offensively to help put away the stubborn underdogs.

Spencer finished with 15 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter. Dobbins added 12 for the Jackrabbits, and Michael Howard had 13 points, six of which came in the fourth quarter. Clarence Harris rounded out high scorers for Lonoke with nine points.

The win gives the Jackrabbits a final regular-season record of 22-5, 14-2 in the 2-4A Conference. They will have a two-round bye in the district tournament at Bald Knob, and will begin tourney play Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. at the Bulldog gymnasium.

HEBER SPRINGS 39, LONOKE GIRLS 37

The Lady Jackrabbits also knew their postseason fate going into Friday’s matchup with Heber Springs. Lonoke fell in a close 39-37 decision to the Lady Panthers.

While the game was essentially meaningless, Lady ’Rabs’ coach Nathan Morris was disappointed with his team’s performance.
“We just couldn’t get it going,” Morris said. “We already had the No. 2 seed. That could be an excuse. We’ve had some sickness — that could be another excuse.

“There are actually a hundred excuses I could throw at you, but the bottom line is, we got beat. We’ve got to get back and get this corrected quick.

“Last year, we were talking about winning the district and the regional tournaments kind of like it was a given. Not this year.”
Ultimately, it was free-throw shooting that made the difference down the stretch for Lonoke. The Lady ’Rabbits only hit 5-of-10 attempts.

Morris says a performance like that this week could spell disaster for the Lady Jackrabbits.

“We need to be gearing up for these teams,” Morris said. “We have to get the ship righted, or we could be sitting at home when the state tournament gets here. We’re the defending district champs, and I know these teams are getting geared up to play Lonoke. The question is, will Lonoke get geared up for them?”

Asiah Scribner led the Lady Jackrabbits with 12 points, while senior Hayley O’Cain added a trio of three pointers for nine points. The loss moved Lonoke to 20-7 overall and 13-3 in conference.

The Lady Jackrabbits will enter the district tournament at Bald Knob as the defending champions, with a No. 2 seed behind regular season champs and host team Lady Bulldogs. They will also have a bye through the first two rounds, and will play Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m.