For the first time since 2008, the Lonoke Jackrabbits are heading back to the state championship game.
Lonoke knocked off Nashville 50-39 in the semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament Monday at the Gina Cox Center. With the win, Lonoke will play for its sixth state title today against Brookland at 5:15 p.m.
"I’m just proud of our guys," Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said. "Every game that we go in to, we’re the underdog. Whoever we are playing is picked to win. Our guys understand that and embrace that."
The Jackrabbits led 11-6 after one quarter but the Scrappers pulled to within one at 11-10 early in the second quarter. Lonoke then outscored Nashville 10-3 the remainder of the half to lead 21-13 at halftime.
Nashville tried to keep it close and cut Lonoke’s lead to 25-20 with 5:07 left in the third quarter. Lonoke then scored seven in a row to lead 32-20 with 2:29 left. Jamel Rankin hit a three-pointer. Darrius McCall hit a short jumper and Tykel Gray hit two free throws after he was fouled driving to the basket. Lonoke led 36-23 after three quarters.
Nashville used a 7-0 run to pull to within six at 38-32 with 4:06 left. McCall stemmed the tied with a basket with 3:56 left, pushing Lonoke’s lead to 40-32.
The Scrappers got to within six a few more times, the last being at 44-38. Again, McCall answered with a basket on a drive to push the Jackrabbits lead to 46-38 with 1:26 left.
Lonoke iced the game when Rankin and McCall each hit two free throws in the final 1:01.
Campbell said McCall is the one they trust to "get up in the belly."
"The person that catches the ball there is going to get attacked," Campbell said. "Darrius cherishes that and relishes that opportunity. He stepped up."
McCall scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.
"I know he hasn’t been happy with the way he’s been playing," Campbell said. "He’s got the tough chore of guarding the best player every game. Whether it’s a guard or a second post guy, he’s doing that. He’s got the toughest job and he accepts it. He’s a tough kid and I love him for that.
"He showed up and I figured that he would. He really stepped up tonight and it was huge."
Blake Mack led Lonoke with 13 points. McCall added 12. Darian Young scored 10. Rankin had seven. Gray had five. Cedric Cooney scored three.
Lonoke 56, CAC 41
The Lonoke Jackrabbits used an 18-0 run in the second quarter to beat Central Arkansas Christian 56-41 in the quarterfinals of the state tournament Friday at the Gina Cox Center.
Lonoke trailed 14-8 after one quarter then scored the first 18 points of the second quarter to lead 26-14.
The Mustangs scored the next six points to cut the deficit to 26-20 but Lonoke led 35-25 after three quarters.
Blake Mack led Lonoke with 29 points. Jamel Rankin had 10. Tykel Gray scored nine. Darian Young had six. Cedric Cooney scored two.
Lonoke 66, Pottsville 64
Lonoke overcame 39 points by Pottsville’s Michael Perry to beat the defending state champion Apaches 66-64 in the first round of the state tournament last week.
Perry scored 26 of his points in the second half as the Apaches overcame a 15-point third-quarter deficit to take a 46-45 lead with 7:01 left in the game. Lonoke led 38-23 early in the third quarter.
Lonoke trailed 57-55 with 3:17 left. Lonoke scored seven in a row to take a 62-57 lead.
Pottsville kept it close and trailed 62-61 with 30 seconds left.
Jamel Rankin led Lonoke with 24 points. Blake Mack had 21. Darian Young had 12. Cedric Cooney scored two.