In a three-minute span, Jamel Rankin scored 16 straight Lonoke points and made four steals. Just like that, it was a new ballgame.
Rankin then hit four clutch free throws in the final two minutes, helping the Jackrabbits snap Pine Bluff Dollarway’s 17-game winning streak Thursday with a 59-55 victory at Dollarway Fieldhouse. The Jackrabbits moved within a half-game of the Cardinals in the 2-4A Conference race.
The Cardinals were the top-ranked team in Class 4A entering the game.
Rankin scored 18 of his game-high 26 points and came up with five steals in the fourth quarter alone to help the Jackrabbits (13-4, 8-1 4A-2) erase a 43-32 deficit. Lonoke took a 51-50 lead on a Blake Mack three-point basket with 4:47 remaining and hit 7 of 11 free throws from there.
"Really and truly, we needed a game like this to let them know we aren’t invincible," Dollarway coach Ellis Berry said. "What we got to do now is gather ourselves."
Rankin’s fifth swipe was the biggest of the game. He missed 1 of 2 free throws that would have given Lonoke a four-point lead with 21.8 seconds left, but he picked Joshua Liddell’s pocket at midcourt in transition and went back to the line to hit 1 of 2.
"I felt like we needed to step up on defense, and defense wins games," Rankin said. "If we stepped up on defense, we were going to win."
Jeremiah Young, who led Dollarway (17-2, 9-1 4A-2) with 20 points, made a breakaway dunk with 6 seconds left to close the gap to 57-55, but Mack put the game away with two bonus shots.
Dollarway had led since the 1:18 mark of the first quarter and took a 32-23 halftime lead after Kabion Ento scored off a rebound before the buzzer. The Cardinals kept the Jackrabbits at bay most of the game by heavily contesting their short-range shots defensively and breaking down their man-to-man scheme offensively.
But Rankin found a way to take over the game and Berry saw it coming.
Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said he didn’t have to tell the Jackrabbits to be more aggressive on offense.
"That’s just what we want to do," he said. "The fact that we weren’t early possibly concerns me. They know to go attack, and that’s what we really focus on."
Mack finished with 15 points. Reid McKenzie had 10. Darian young had four. Dra Offord had three. Darrius McCall added a free throw.
Ento had 19 points and five rebounds and DeAaron Adway registered eight points and six boards for Dollarway.
Rabbits 43, Southside 34
The Lonoke Jackrabbits survived a trip to Southside Batesville with a 43-34 win Friday.
Lonoke led 7-6 after one quarter and 21-12 at halftime.
Blake Mack led Lonoke with 15 points. Dra Offord had nine. Caleb Bracy added seven. Jamel Rankin scored five. Darrian Young added four. Tykel Gray and Zack Risner had two points each.
Lonoke’s game with Marianna on Tuesday was postponed because of severe weather in the area.
The game was stopped with three minutes remaining in the first quarter with the Trojans leading 8-7.
Lonoke High School principal Phynaus Wilson advised fans and players to head to the new tornado shelter across the parking lot from the gymnasium.
The game was officially postponed around 8:20 p.m. It will be concluded at 3 p.m. Saturday at the LHS gymnasium.
When the game resumes, Marianna will have possession of the basketball.