SPORTS >> Lonoke not first to lose 3 straight
Leader sports editor
While losing three consecutive state championship games might be a dubious distinction, Lonoke is hardly the first team to achieve it.
The Greenland girls reached the title tilt five consecutive seasons from 1996 through 2000, losing in ’96, ’97 and ’98. Lonoke can take heart in the fact that the Lady Pirates broke through in ’99 and repeated as champs in 2000.
Harrison’s boys also suffered a bout of futility in its three straight state final setbacks from 1999-2001.
Seven previous girls teams have matched the Lady Jackrabbits’ feat of three consecutive state championship game berths. The most recent was Guy Perkins from 2005-07.
ON THE PROWL
The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits weren’t kidding about this whole hunting theme.
Last week, head coach Nathan Morris announced that, from that point on, his team had decided to become hunters.
“We’re tired of being the ones being hunted,” he said. “We want to go on the hunt.”
Players and coaches donned camouflage throughout last week. On Thursday, the Lady Jackrabbits wore camouflage jerseys, complete with their numbers, during the player introductions.
LETTIN' 'EM PLAY
Though Lonoke got to the line 24 times on Thursday, Morris intimated in his post-game press conference that that number might have been higher.
“We expected their physicalness,” he said. “I don’t think it necessarily translated into free throws in the paint when we got down there. I wish it would have translated into a little bit more.
“Maybe we were going in a little bit soft, I don’t know. I thought we were attacking pretty aggressively.”
The game plan to attack and try to pick up some fouls on UCA-bound Megan Herbert, failed on two levels. Lonoke missed 14 lay-ups in the contest, including four in the first two minutes and six seconds and six in the first period.
And they failed to ever put Herbert into foul trouble.
“We dribble-penetrated a couple of times and just bounced off her, I guess,” Morris said. “I mean, how many fouls did she have? Two? I thought we attacked her pretty well to see if we could pick up some cheap ones on her, but to no avail. She’s physically tough.”
How much significance Shiloh Christian’s deeper bench played in the outcome is open for debate. But the Lady Saints’ bench outscored Lonoke’s 8-0 in a six-point victory.
Vic Rimmer got 31 minutes out of his reserves, while Morris got only six from his. Though Emily Smith, Patrice Smith, Megan Davis and Briana Lynch all saw playing time for Lonoke, those four were each in for less than a minute.
Only Erin Shoemaker (four minutes) and Lauren Harper (two minutes) afforded the Lady ’Rabbit starters any rest.
Asiah Scribner managed only three field-goal attempts against the big Lady Saints. The dominant post player and Lonoke’s leading scorer, managed only five points and just 19 over the three games of the tournament.
It’s no secret that the Lady Jackrabbits’ offense runs through their three outstanding guards. Maybe too much so on Thursday. Cara Neighbors, Ashleigh Himstedt and Michaela Brown combined to launch 34 of Lonoke’s 41 field-goal attempts against the Lady Saints. Neighbors was 6 of 16, Himstedt 4 of 11 and Brown 1 of 7.
Lonoke’s two front-line players, meanwhile, shot only seven times.
“They’ve got two big post players that just laid on (Scribner),” Morris said. “We had two or three sets where we tried to free her up and we just never got those sets to work. That was a cause for some problems. Whatever shoulder she turned to, there was (a defender) standing there.”
Shiloh coach Vic Rimmer said that while his first priority was to stop point guard Michaela Brown, he was very much aware of Scribner.
“We didn’t have to help off as much on her when their guards penetrated,” he said. “Kami (Garrison) did a great job of being physical with her, fronting her and not letting her get catches in the post.”
CARRYING THE LOAD
While most of the field goals were concentrated among two players, nearly all of the rebounds were gathered in by three Lady Jackrabbits. Emily Shoemaker and Scribner pulled down seven each while Neighbors grabbed six. Other than that, only Himstedt recorded a board with one. The team was credited with four team rebounds to account for Lonoke’s total of 25.
MISMATCH IN SIZE
Super sophomore Cara Neighbors warmed up to make 6 of 10 second-half shots after struggling to an 0-of-6 first half. Part of her struggles came from her defender – All-State post player Megan Herbert – who had at least four inches and quite a few pounds on Neighbors.
“The first one we were most concerned with was (Michaela Brown),” Rimmer said. “She makes everything go. But Megan’s defense over the last three weeks has been the best I’ve seen it. She understood how important it was to guard on the perimeter.”
FOURTH TIME A CHARM?
Though it may be hard for Morris and his team to think about the future so soon after another disappointing loss, there is a lot to take heart in during the offseason. The outstanding guard trio of Himstedt, Brown and Neighbors returns as does the often-dominating Scribner in the post.
Of the five seniors Lonoke will graduate — Harper, Emily Shoemaker, Megan Davis, Briana Lynch and Courtnie Holt – only Harper and Shoemaker saw significant action.
Shoemaker turned in a good final showing on Thursday. Though she made only 1 of 4 shots, she often made it tough inside on the bigger Herbert and she pulled down seven rebounds, including a game-high five on the offensive end. She also recorded a pair of steals to go along with her five points.
TIME IS NOT
ON YOUR SIDE
The timekeeper at Summit Arena must have been checking SEC tournament scores when, at the beginning of the third period, he failed to stop the clock after a Shiloh Christian foul.
While Ashleigh Himstedt went to the line to shoot two free throws, the clock continued to run. The foul occurred at the 7:45 mark and the clock showed 7:14 when she finished shooting her free throws.
The time was not restored.