SPORTS >> ’Rabbits growing up on court
By JASON KING
Sometimes it takes a triumph in the most ugly of circumstances for a team to grow.
Just ask Lonoke coach Dean Campbell.
Those were precisely the circumstances Tuesday, when Campbell’s Jackrabbits overcame a four-point deficit to beat DeWitt 42-36 in overtime at Lonoke on Tuesday. DeWitt led 34-30 with less than a minute to go in regulation before Lonoke rallied.
It was an ugly, physical, sloppy game, but it was also a nice bounce-back for the Jackrabbits after they dropped 2-4A Conference games to Marianna-Lee and Heber Springs the week before.
Lonoke (8-6, 4-3) trailed for most of the contest but rallied late in regulation on a three-pointer by guard Darius Scott, who also went to the line and hit his second free throw to tie the game 34-34 with 38 seconds left.
Scott had two opportunities to win the game for the ’Rabbits in regulation, but could not get either shot attempt to fall.
Lonoke took over once overtime started, as a pair of big defensive rebounds by Mike Jones helped swing momentum in the Jackrabbits’ favor for the first time all night.
“We actually talked about that,” Campbell said. “We’ve done this so many times already this year. Let’s make a run — let’s come back and do what we’ve done so many times. And the kids found a way to dig down and get some defensive stops and finally get some points on the other end.”
The even flow of the game’s early minutes quickly faded at the start of the second quarter and the physical, mistake-prone play was especially apparent in the lane on both ends. That resulted in a quarter in which DeWitt outscored Lonoke 7-2.
“I think their guys were trying to do some things to agitate some of our guys, and we didn’t handle it very well,” Campbell said.
“A couple of our guys got some dumb fouls, and again, that’s just the maturing process that we need to continue to get better at.”
The Dragons held the Jackrabbits scoreless in the second quarter until Jones hit an inside jumper to cut DeWitt’s lead to 15-14 with 1:06 left in the half.
That was how it stayed until halftime.
Jones finished with eight points, but it was his two big defensive rebounds in overtime that made the biggest difference for the Jackrabbits. Both rebounds led to Lonoke points, and took the Jackrabbits from a 36-36 tie to a 40-36 lead with 40 seconds left.
“He had been sick all day,” Campbell said of Jones. “He played like he was sick until the end. He gathered it up and got some rebounds for us that we needed, and got active in the offense.
“He had kind of been sluggish, but sometimes, these kids really, really want to win, and they find a way even when they feel bad to step up.”
Lonoke bounced back in the third quarter and capitalized on a technical foul against DeWitt coach Justin Russell with 5:44 left in the period. That led to a free throw by Scott to make it 18-15 Lonoke, and a three-pointer by Damarcus Dodson with 2:38 left in the third gave the Jackrabbits a 21-17 lead.
DeWitt guard Tyler Leibrock, who paced the Dragons with 12 points, hit from the outside early but exploited the Jackrabbits’ inside defense for six points in the fourth quarter. His shot in the lane with 6:47 left in regulation helped the Dragons reclaim the lead at 27-26, and Leibrock drove the baseline and scored to give DeWitt its biggest lead, 34-30 with 1:12 left.
Scott led the Jackrabbits with 16 points, while Jones and Dodson added eight each.
“We were coming off the loss at Heber, and trying to bounce back,” Campbell said. “They did a good job; DeWitt played hard.
We did some good things — we did some not so good things. We’re still making mistakes that we should not be making.”