Lonoke’s Lady Jackrabbits are looking to defend their title in their Goldfish Classic next week.
Heath Swiney’s team prevailed over Lonoke County rival Carlisle in last year’s championship, 54-45.
“It would be a big deal for these seniors to win it two years in a row, to defend their title,” Swiney said. “Any time you have your own tournament, you want to win it.”
Lonoke (11-2 heading into Tuesday’s showdown with Central Arkansas Christian) will open against Malvern at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 27. The winner will face the survivor of England-Des Arc in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, with the losers playing at 11 a.m. Thursday.
The bottom half of the bracket includes Bradford against Newport at 4 p.m. Dec. 27 and Carlisle against Stuttgart at 11 a.m. to open the tournament. Those winners will advance to Thursday’s 4 p.m. semifinal. Losers will drop to the consolation bracket for a 1:30 p.m. game Thursday.
Semifinal winners will meet at 5:20 p.m. Friday. Semifinal losers will play for third at 2:30. The fifth-place game will be at noon.
“This is one of those tournaments that fluctuates year to year, based on the talent,” Swiney said. “One year the girls side might be really tough; the next year the boys might be a stronger field.”
Hazen is out, so Newport’s girls are new this year.
The Lady Rabbits enter the Goldfish Classic on a bit of a hot streak. Last week, they avenged an earlier 52-42 loss to Class 5A Beebe with a 53-27 victory. The Lady Rabbits started quickly and settled things in the second half. They led by 12-5 after one quarter, 17-14 at the break, 40-22 after three quarters, and they won the fourth, 13-5, to extend their margin to 26.
“We actually played the way we were capable of playing,” Swiney said “We were up three at the half when their post player went out (with an injury), and in the second half we got to rolling.
“But I told my kids, pretty much that same team without her last year beat us at their place. Within a week, we made some adjustments — not necessarily major personnel adjustments, but more of a mental factor.”
Keiunna Walker led Lonoke with 22 points. Mia Brown added 12.
Also last week, the Lady Rabbits rolled over Episcopal Collegiate, 51-19; and rallied to beat Carlisle, 63-48.
“Episcopal was a game we were trying to get in and get out,” Swiney said. “You don’t want to get anybody hurt in that type of game. It was a chance for our younger kids to play. I started playing them in the second quarter.”
Walker again led scoring with 22. Arius McClain added 13.
At Carlisle on Saturday, Lonoke led after the first quarter, 11-7, but the Lady Bison rallied with a 20-point quarter to head into halftime ahead, 27-22. Lonoke went on a 9-0 run to start the third quarter, and the Lady Rabbits cut into the deficit to trail by 38-36 after three quarters. They closed with a 27-10 fourth quarter — including the game’s final 11 points — to escape with the 15-point victory.
“We didn’t shoot the ball extremely well in the first half,” Swiney said. “I felt like we were getting all the shots we wanted, but we were missing easy shots, even shots in the paint. I didn’t feel like we were attacking the basket.
“In the first half we settled for a lot of jump shots, and at halftime we made some adjustments. The biggest was to attack the rim. We attacked the basket in the second half, got some fouls and got rolling.”
He said the first half was one of his team’s worst defensive efforts of the year.
Walker led all scorers with 43 points, including 18 in the final period. McClain added 12.