Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SPORTS>>Lady ’Rabbits spring another surprise victory

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

If back-to-back trips to the 4A state finals hasn’t put Nathan Morris’ Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits on the map by now, their giant-killing ways in the early part of the 2008-09 season are bound to.

The latest victim was defending 7A state champion Conway, which felt the impact of a 27-point, eight-rebound, three-steal performance by sophomore shooting guard Cara Neighbors in a 48-37 win for the Lady Jackrabbits on Monday afternoon in the semifinal round of the Gillam Farms Holiday Classic at Beebe.

The win over the Lady Wampus Cats (8-3) was the second for Lonoke (9-3) over a 7A school this season after a win over Fort Smith Southside in anearlier tournament. The Lady ’Rab’s also downed 6A powerhouse Little Rock Parkview to advance to the finals of the RAPA tournament last month.

“Conway never gave up,” said Lady ’Rabbits coach Nathan Morris. “They started getting a little tougher, a little harder. I think a couple of times, we watched some balls come off the rim that maybe we shouldn’t have, but luckily, we had a good enough lead.

“We started playing a little bit better down the stretch. I think we realized that it wasn’t over yet.”

Lonoke got another big test in last night’s championship game, as it took on unbeaten Star City. The 14-0 Lady Bulldogs downed host Beebe in the other semi game on Monday to advance.

The Lady Jackrabbits took advantage of the absence of dominant 6-3 Conway post Na’Dra Robertson. That resulted in a 29-26 advantage on the boards for Lonoke, as Neighbors and junior post Asiah Scribner each pulled down eight boards.

The Lady Jackrabbits patiently worked their way to a slim 22-18 lead at the intermission, but Neighbors began to blow the hinges off in the third quarter. It served as her most productive period with nine points, and four more points from Scribner on the low block helped lift Lonoke to a 37-23 lead by the 1:18 mark.

“She can score,” Morris said of Neighbors. “She just can flat score. Her defense is what’s getting a lot better. She played great defense the first two minutes of the game and stayed out of foul trouble. I’m more proud of that from than the points tonight.

She did a great job of staying out of foul trouble. It’s not typical, but in the past, we haven’t had typical sophomores around here either. We’ve had some pretty good ones.”

It became a game of keep-away for the Lady ’Rabbits in the fourth quarter. Neighbors and point guard Michaela Brown took turns dribbling through defenders, as the speed of the duo was able to negate the full-court pressure of Conway.

Defensive pressure by Lonoke took its toll on the Lady Wampus Cats. No Conway scorer finished with more than eight points, as Jasmine Wilkins and Taylor Gault shared that honor, and only three other scored at all in the struggle. That pressure also helped generate 15 Conway turnovers for the Lady Jackrabbits, who only had eight giveaways of their own.

Junior Ashleigh Himstedt led the way for Lonoke with 20 points on Saturday in a 64-45 win over Carlisle in the first round.

Scribner turned in her fourth double-double performance of the year with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and also added two steals and two assists. Neighbors finished with 13 points, and Emily Shoemaker added eight in the dominant win for Lonoke.

Lonoke maintained a 10-point lead throughout the first half before widening the margin slightly further during the final two periods.

Monie Cohen and Whitney Thrift led the way for the Lady Bison with 15 points each.