Lonoke’s Jackrabbits lost twice last week, but coach Dean Campbell said his team was heading in the right direction.
The Rabbits (9-11 to start the week) lost to Bauxite, 54-46; and Joe T. Robinson, 52-46.
“We’re starting to play some of the best basketball we’ve played,” Campbell said. “The record may not indicate that. Rebounding is still an issue. We did better last week — we can still improve on that aspect — and the turnovers need to get better.”
Lonoke will welcome LISA Academy (3-11 at press time) to the Gina Cox Center on Friday.
The Jackrabbits won the first meeting in December, 68-57.
“LISA’s scary,” Campbell said. “They try to make it an ugly game, up and down, and they try to make you play faster and more out of control than what you’re used to playing.
“We’re a different team now than we were then with E’Shawn (Brown) and DeAngelo (Noid) back from injury. We’ve got some guys playing a little differently, so it will be a good measuring stick.
“Are we going to be tougher, guard, control the tempo and play the speed we want to play and not let somebody else dictate it? They’re coming off an overtime loss to (Central Arkansas Christian), but they are very capable on any given night of beating you if you’re not geared in and ready to play. We will see if we’ve matured mentally to be able to control what we want to control.”
Against Bauxite, the Jackrabbits fell behind after one quarter, 15-10; at halftime, 29-21; and after three quarters, 44-33.
“We had opportunities,” Campbell said. “Truthfully, I feel that we’re getting closer. We are starting to now have everybody getting healthy, really for the first time, to have every kid on the floor and able to contribute. We cut it to four late; we had opportunities and just came up short.”
He said the Robinson game was similar.
“We cut it to four and had the ball a couple of times late, but we got stuck at four and couldn’t get over the hump,” Campbell said. “But we played with a lot more energy, and we defended a lot better at times. We still had too many turnovers.”
The rally came after the Jackrabbits spotted the Senators a 9-0 first quarter.
“The first time we played them, they made more free throws than we attempted, so we stressed being more aggressive and getting to the line,” Campbell said. “We did that, but we didn’t capitalize when we got to the line in the first quarter. We dug ourselves a hole.”
Robinson led at halftime, 22-11, and Lonoke pulled within 35-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We dug ourselves too big a hole with the 0-9 start,” Campbell said. “We’ve gone through a stretch against some of the top teams in our conference. But I still feel like we are playing a lot better and starting to get healthy and starting to come together.
“That makes us a little deeper, and if we get to a situation where we need more guys to step up, we’ve got some guys with game minutes under their legs.”
Tony Bryant led the Jackrabbits with 16 points. Tyriqe Jackson added 13 and DeAngelo Noid 12.
Noid led the Jackrabbits against Bauxite with 17 points in just his third game back after suffering injuries during a car accident. Tony Bryant, returning from a fractured toe, added 15.
“We’re starting to get there,” Campbell said. “We’ve talked about how the district tournament is set up and let them know we’ve dug ourselves a hole, but we’re starting to get healthy, and you want to be playing your best at the end of the year.
“We’re heading that direction. It’s just a question of whether we’re mentally tough enough to be able to handle the early game in the district tournament.”
First-round district tournament winners will advance to regional play and this year’s regional will be hosted by Lonoke, the Arkansas Activities Association announced last week.