SPORTS >> Good Neighbors aids Lonoke girls
By TODD TRAUB
Leader sports editor
Whatever poison Stuttgart chose against the Lonoke girls Tuesday night, it was lethal.
The Lady Ricebirds put their defensive focus on Lady Jackrabbits senior and UALR signee Asiah Scribner, which only released Cara Neighbors to do the damage in Lonoke’s 52-48 victory at Lonoke.
Neighbors, who missed several non-conference games as she recovered from wrist surgery, led Lonoke with 20 points to help the Lady Jackrabbits take the lead in the second quarter and hold on the rest of the game.
“She’s led us scoring,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “That’s the one that’s been out with the surgery. She’s led us in scoring four straight games since she got back.
“She’s been doing what she has to do, the other ones are continuing to do what they have to do.”
Neighbors helped illustrate a problem teams have when facing Lonoke (11-5, 3-0 2-4A Conference). Focus on one player defensively, and another can take her place.
“They’ve got to pick their poison,” Morris said. “We’ve got a couple kids that can play.”
Scribner got loose in the fourth quarter to score seven points and finish with 15 and Ashleigh Himstedt, who scored Lonoke’s final five points of the first half to break a 20-20 tie, finished with 13.
Gang up Scribner, Morris said, and you have to contend with Neighbors, Himstedt or Michaela Brown.
“They were double-teaming her in there,” Morris said of Scribner. “You’ve got a kid like that, you’re throwing her a lot of respect. She doesn’t have to outscore everybody. She’s got everybody double-teaming her.
“Neighbors starts shooting the ball out on the floor. Himstedt and Brown, that opened that up and we went out there in the second half.”
Lonoke took its biggest lead, 32-23, when Himstedt made a three-pointer from the right wing with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
Neighbors matched the margin, 39-30, when she made a nine-footer with 7:24 left in the game and Himstedt put Lonoke up by nine again when she made a three-pointer from the left corner for the 44-35 lead with 5:24 to go.
Stuttgart fought back to within 46-43 when Kayla Robinson drew a foul from Himstedt and made both free throws with 1:54 left.
But Scribner made a left-handed layup, got a rebound, a foul and made a free throw to push Lonoke’s lead to 49-43 with 51.3 seconds left. Two more free throws by Brown made it 50-45 with 23.5 seconds left, helping the Lady Jackrabbits to survive Kynsha Geans’ three-pointer with 13.3 second to go.
“We talk to the kids all the time; to win a conference title you’ve got to win the home games,” Morris said. “That’s so important. Then you’ve got to win the ones you’re supposed to on the road.
“Certainly we would have liked to finish a little better, but we got the job done against a very good Stuttgart team.”
Morris, hoping to lead his team to its fourth straight state final appearance and first championship in that stretch, was unhappy with his team’s aggressiveness against Stuttgart’s zone in the first half.
“I don’t know if we’re in very good shape right now,” he said. “I think that’s got to get better; I think it will get better. Yeah, we need to be a little bit more aggressive when they’re packed in the zone. We’ve got kids that can score. They need to get loose and score.”
Another area of concern was free-throw shooting. Lonoke was 13 for 23 and made just four of 11 in the fourth quarter.
“We definitely have got to work on free throws,” Morris said. “Can somebody send me a book and I’ll try to figure it out.”