Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

SPORTS >> Experience keeps Lonoke girls cool under fire

Leader sportswriter

HEBER SPRINGS — Consecutive was the word of the day for the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits on Saturday.

That’s because the Lady ’Rabbits’ 20th consecutive victory, a 65-35 mercy-ruled whipping of Clinton, earned them their fourth consecutive 4A East Region championship. With its victory at Panther Arena, Lonoke took the No. 1 seed to this week’s 4A state tournament at Highland High School in Hardy.

The Lady ’Rabbits will play the winner of today’s game between South No. 4 seed Waldron and North No. 3 seed West Fork on

Thursday at 7 p.m.

The game also marked four straight victories for Lonoke (27-5) over its top 2-4A Conference adversary, including another one-sided game a week earlier in the district final at Stuttgart.

There was no panic on Lonoke’s part when the Lady Yellowjackets (26-6) grabbed an early 8-4 lead. But when the Lady Jackrabbits reversed the momentum to start the second quarter, Clinton coach Ricky Cooper’s three quick timeouts were not enough to calm down his team.

“I don’t doubt the experience factor,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “Any time you’re more experienced in any kind of athletics, you’re going to give yourself a pretty good chance. That doesn’t mean that a young team can’t win, because we were young when we took them before.

“But I definitely think you have to key on your experience. I think experience doesn’t rattle you as much.”

Lonoke guards Cara Neighbors and Ashleigh Himstedt began to rally the Lady Jackrabbits late in the first quarter, and took the game over completely in the next period.

Lonoke outscored Clinton 26-7 in the second quarter, using a 12-0 run to end the half and make it 38-17.

“I think we come out defensively maybe a little bit stand-still,” Morris said. “We weren’t quite into it. They certainly were ready to play. Their kids were ready to play. When it was so close, I think we had to challenge in that second quarter when that run started.”

Himstedt scored five of her 11 points in 22 seconds of Lonoke’s runaway second quarter, making a three-pointer with 4:34 left in the half and getting a layup off a steal moments later to make it 23-13.

Neighbors also came up big with a three-pointer with 3:34 to go and two straight inside jumpers that lifted the Lady ’Rabbits to a 34-17 lead in the final minute.

Neighbors led all scorers with 21 points, while senior post player Asiah Scribner took assists from Michaela Brown and Neighbors just before the half for four of her 19 points.

Sophomore post player Anna Himstedt got her only points of the game midway through the first quarter on an assist from older sister Ashleigh, but it was her defensive work that helped hold standout Clinton senior post Whitney Donahue to just 11 points.

“She had a good game,” Morris said of the younger Himstedt. “Between her, Artice Morris and Emily Howell. They’re really playing that one position and holding it down. They’ve done an outstanding job the last few weeks defensively; backside offense type stuff. It seems like every game, those three are getting something that’s really looking good in that one spot.”

Logan Blagg added seven points for the Lady Yellowjackets. Clinton will play North No. 4 seed Ozark today at 7 p.m. in the first round of the 4A state tournament.