Leader Blues

Friday, March 07, 2008

SPORTS >>PURPLE REIGN

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

HOT SPRINGS — Lonoke stayed aggressive. Hamburg panicked.

In the end, both of those factors played into the Jackrabbits’ 47-42 win and the 4A state championship on Thursday afternoon at the Summit. It was Lonoke’s fifth boys title, and its first since 2000.

Hamburg fired up three quick, well-guarded three-pointers over the final 1:31 of the game, missing them all, and Lonoke (30-5) made just enough free throws — 5-of-10 over the last 1:46 — to hold on.

“This team just beat an outstanding, well-coached Hamburg team, Jackrabbits coach Wes Swift said. “We talked about coming in, we had to compete with them on the boards, but someway, somehow we out rebounded them by nine. That was the total key to the game.”

The final rebound count stood at 38-29 in favor of Lonoke.

Spencer, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, was surprised by his totals on the boards.

“Wow, 15? Yes sir, I’d say that was the most rebounds I ever got in a game,” Spencer said. “This feels great. Last year, we finished short. This year, we decided we were going to take it all — that’s what we did.”

Hamburg three-point ace Javarus Curtis had an opportunity to tie the game with 17 seconds left, but his rushed shot from the left wing went sailing out of bounds, giving possession back to the Jackrabbits, who held a 45-42 lead.

Clarence Harris hit the back end of a two-shot foul to push the lead to four, and the Lions once again put the ball in the hands of their surest shot.

He was off the mark again. Spencer iced it with a free throw with 2.4 seconds left, and the celebration began.

The three-point war anticipated by many never came to pass, with a first-half trey from Michael Howard and another by Tony Jackson to close the third quarter as the only two successful attempts for the ’Rabbits from behind the arc. The other 12 missed their target.

Hamburg (23-9) made only 4-of-19.

It wasn’t just three-pointers that were missing the mark for both teams on Thursday. Hamburg made only 32 percent from the field, while Lonoke managed only 30.4 percent. Foul shooting was little better. Lonoke finished 17-of-27, and Hamburg went 10-of-15. Swift jokingly blamed Lonoke’s free-throw shooting troubles on his assistant following the game.

“That’s coach Campbell’s fault,” Swift said with a grin. “He’s our free-throw coach, but he’s not here to defend himself. Again, it’s the stage. They’re not trying to miss, we’re just trying to get them as relaxed as possible.”

He also said the rushed shots from Curtis at the end could just as easily happened to his team in similar circumtances.

“These are teenagers,” Swift said. “Anytime you get down, especially on this stage, the pressure gets to you. It’s happened to us this year.

“This win is a total credit to our defense. We’re a majority man-to-man team. But we have beat a couple of really good teams with what you saw today, which is kind of a 1-2-2 which sometimes flattened out to a 3-2. We beat a really good Wynne team right before Christmas. I thought we were so physically outmatched and they do such a good job of running their man-to-man (offense) that I thought we might try to surprise them a little bit.

“We had notions of going to (man) if we needed to. But they never really went on a big run to show that we needed to get out of the zone.”

The Jackrabbits controlled the momentum for most of the first half, until Quinton Pippen snuck in a three-point shot for Hamburg just before the halftime buzzer to give the Lions a 21-18 lead at intermission.

The held onto the lead until a pair of free throws by Howard at the 3:44 mark put Lonoke on top, 26-25. From there, the lead changed hands six more times during the next seven minutes.

Perhaps the biggest play of the game came when Spencer took a defensive rebound and went coast to coast for a lay-up and free throw that tied the game at 40 with 4:07 left.

Michael Howard’s steal and feed ahead to Spencer gave Lonoke a 42-40 lead 30 seconds later.

Though Pippen tied the game with a runner in the lane with 2:50 left, Howard’s free throw less than a minute later provided the winning margin. Hamburg never scored again.

Spencer led the Jackrabbits with 12 points, 15 rebounds and two assists. Harris and Howard added 10 points and two steals each.

Lonoke 8 10 16 13 -47

Hamburg 6 15 13 8 -42

Lonoke (30-5)

Bradley Spencer 4-11, 4-5, 15; Tyrone Dobbins 2-7, 2-4, 6; Clarence Harris 3-10, 4-6, 10; Michael Howard 2-11, 5-6, 10;
Jordan Lambert 0-0, 1-2, 1; Tony Jackson 1-3, 0-0, 3; Pierre Smith 0-1, 0-0, 0; Trenton Spencer 0-0, 0-0, 0; Myles Taylor 2-3, 1-4, 5; Amir Fleming 0-0, 0-0, 0. Totals: 14-46, 17-27, 47
3-Pt FG: 2-14 (Howard 1, Jackson 1); Rebounds: 38 (Spencer 15, Dobbins 5); Assists: 4 (Spencer 2); Steals: 8 (Dobbins 2, Harris 2, Howard 2)

Hamburg (23-9)

Javarus Curtis 4-13, 0-0, 9; Rodney Brown 2-5, 2-2, 6; Nate Rhodes 1-8, 0-3, 2; Quinton Pippen 4-11, 2-2, 11; Randy Brown 0-0, 4-6, 4; Jarrod Brown 2 -4, 0-0, 6; Reggie Wilson 1-3, 2-2, 4. Totals: 14-44, 10-15, 42
3-Pt FG: 4-19 (J. Brown 2, Curtis 1, Pippen 1); Rebounds 29 (Rhodes 9); Assists: 7 (Curtis 5); Steals: 6 (Rhodes 2, Pippen 2)