SPORTS >> Lady Jackrabbits do their part for drama
Leader sports writer
CHEROKEE VILLAGE — The anticipated 4A state semifinal started to come together when Prairie Grove beat Malvern 58-40 at Highland High School on Thursday.
Four hours later, the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits did their part by beating Waldron 53-39 to set the stage for a showdown between the top two seeds today in the first semifinal at 1 p.m. Lonoke is seeking its fourth straight berth in the state finals and its first championship in that span.
Lonoke (28-5) methodically built a 29-19 lead through the first half before creating more transition opportunities in the final two periods. Waldron (27-6) had a strong night inside from senior post player Caitlin McKay, who scored15 points, but the Lady ’Rabbits held dynamic guard Shelbie Trozzi to only two points.
“I think she got defended maybe a little bit better than normal,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “We were able to put pressure on that guard bringing it up. They’ve really got some big size, and their size led to some easy baskets that we didn’t want to give.”
Lonoke spread the ball around, which resulted in big nights for Asiah Scribner, Cara Neighbors and Ashleigh Himstedt.
Scribner found the basket for a game-high 22 points while Neighbors scored 16 and Himstedt scored 14.
“We made baskets inside; we had some drives out of the guard play,” Morris said. “We had excellent drives in the second half.
First half, we had several. I thought we were a little slow footed at times, but it’s the state tournament; we’re in the state semifinals.
“A lot of people want to be here, and there’s only going to be four left after Friday night. So we can’t be any happier about it than that.”
Himstedt made a strong move to the basket and scored with 5:18 left to play to put the Lady ’Rabbits up 49-31, and had two chances to increase the lead to 20 but came up short on a pair of fast breaks. She was sent to the free-throw line with 4:22 left but hit only the second shot to make it 50-31.
Scribner started each quarter off with a basket. Her first made it 2-0, she scored with 6:47 left in the second quarter to make it 18-12 and hit the first basket of the second half to increase Lonoke’s lead to 31-19. Scribner took an assist from Himstedt with 6:28 left in the game to complete the pattern and give the Lady ’Rabbits a 46-29 lead.
The Lady Jackrabbit’s pressure on Trozzi was the difference for Lonoke defensively. Michaela Brown, along with Neighbors, did not let up in the second half and the two were able to generate a number of half-court steals from a strong, ball-handling Lady Bulldogs team.
“Those three seniors, they don’t want to be out,” Morris said of Brown, Scribner and Himstedt. “We’ve just got another game or two. We’ve taken this thing one game at a time; that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
Eryn Root added 10 points for Waldron.
Star City played Clinton and Stuttgart played Shiloh Christian Friday night in the bottom half of the quarterfinals bracket to determine the other semifinal matchup today at 6 p.m.