Leader Blues

Friday, December 19, 2008

SPORTS>> ’Rabbits roll ’Dogs

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke coach Wes Swift admits there are still some kinks left to work out with his new high-octane Jackrabbits.

But that high-octane style was still good for nine steals and 22 points in the first quarter alone during Lonoke’s 75-59 win over Star City on Thursday night in the first round of the Pulaski Academy tournament.

The Jackrabbits (4-1) ended up winning the turnover battle by only one at 20-19, although most of those giveaways came with extended sub play in the second half by Lonoke.

“We played the kind of game we wanted to play,” Swift said. “We made so many mistakes, but it’s still early and we’re a work in progress. I thought we made a few shots tonight. I think you’re going to see us make more and more. Obviously, we’re not going to make the three-point shot every night, but I think we have enough players that can knock down a couple.”

There was no shortage of Jackrabbit players knocking down the three-pointers against Star City. Trenton Spencer and Michael Howard each had two in the first half, while Lance Jackson put up 11 of his total 13 points in the third quarter alone, nine of which came from behind the arc.

The outside game generated plenty of points, and a 13 point, eight rebound performance by senior forward Pierre Smith gave the Jackrabbits balance on the inside.

The Bulldogs tried to put the defensive pressure on Howard and fellow senior Clarence Harris, but it was to little avail, as Lonoke used its depth and a plethora of skilled shooters to spread the scoring around. Howard still went on to lead all scorers in the game with 16 points, while Jackson had a good night on both ends with 13 points and six steals.

“That’s what we talked about up at Morrilton,” said Swift. “We got up there, and it was Michael Howard. Mike’s going to be a consistent scorer for us. He can really score. They went to face guarding him tonight. And like I told them, that’s still fine. We still have enough scorers that I don’t think teams are going to be able to do that to us. Any time you take a defensive player out of the mix, it’s always advantage-offense.”

Lonoke’s offense held quite an advantage during the first half, outscoring the Bulldogs 22-10 in the first quarter. The Jackrabbits went on to hold a dominant 49-29 lead at the half, and was one point away from a mercy rule at the 1:19 mark of the third quarter before relieving the starters.

Star City took advantage of the subs’ inexperience, cutting the lead to 73-57 with 2:42 left, which prompted Swift to put his starting five back in for the remainder.

A total of 28 rebounds was enough for Lonoke to win the rebounding battle against the comparably-sized Bulldogs, but not by much. Swift said that is one area in which he and his players are still not on the same page.

“It’s not very good, and that’s a weak spot for us,” he said. “It’s what we talk about every practice. It’s my number-one priority, and I think about their number 10 priority right now, so that’s not a good thing. That’s going to be a work in progress.”

Darius Scott had eight points and five steals for Lonoke. Spencer and Harris also finished with eight points. For Star City, post player Deandra Edwards led with 15 points, with 13 for C.J. Waters and 10 for point guard Issac Hawkins.

Lonoke played host Pulaski Academy last night in the semifinals after Leader deadlines.