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Jackrabbits to face defending champion Apaches in first round

Lonoke’s Darian Young attempts a three-pointer against Heber Springs in the regular-season finale at the Gina Cox Center on Feb. 14. Young hit six three-pointers in the Jackrabbits’ win over Stuttgart on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)Buy Photo
Lonoke’s Darian Young attempts a three-pointer against Heber Springs in the regular-season finale at the Gina Cox Center on Feb. 14. Young hit six three-pointers in the Jackrabbits’ win over Stuttgart on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)

The Lonoke Jackrabbits are back in the state tournament for the first time since 2009. They will play defending Class 4A state champion Pottsville in the first round today at 2:30 p.m. at the Gina Cox Center.

Lonoke’s last trip to the state tournament was under former coach Wes Swift. Lonoke beat Berryville in the first round then lost to Dumas in the second round of the Class 4A state tournament at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Today’s game with Pottsville was originally scheduled for Wednesday but was delayed because of winter weather that hit the area earlier this week.

“It allows us to have two good practices,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said. “I think it will be fine. Our guys, that if it’s a Friday game, they are used to having two practices then playing. It’s nothing that they haven’t dealt with before.”

Campbell said his team had to deal with the postponement of a tournament already this year when they played the finals of the Conway St. Joseph Classic in December. The tournament was postponed because of winter weather.

“Our guys are used to dealing with a little bit of weather,” Campbell said. “At the time, I wasn’t real excited about it but now it seems to be beneficial because we’ve been through it. Our guys have adjusted to it and won the tournament. I think we will be fine.

“Either way, it won’t change the excitement our guys have for getting to play at home. It will give an extra day to prepare.”

The Apaches won the Class 4A state championship a year ago, beating Pine Bluff Dollarway 54-50 in the finals last year at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock.

Pottsville is the third seed from the North regional.

“I think we match up fine with them,” Campbell said. “Michael Perry, who is one of the better players in the state, plays for them. He basically controlled everything for them in the state championship game last year. Teams have keyed on him all year and he continues to have games of 25 and 30 points and they are winning at the same time at a pretty good rate.

“They are very good. Coach Shane Thurman does a very good job. They will play extremely hard and would probably love nothing more than to come into our place and beat us in the first game at state and get us out of the way.”

Lonoke qualified for the state tournament with a 60-42 win over Jonesboro Westside in the first round of the regional tournament last week at Clinton.

The score was tied 7-7 after one quarter. Lonoke outscored Westside 53-36 the remainder of the game.

Blake Mack led Lonoke with 19 points. Tykel Gray added 16. Darian Young scored 12. Jamel Rankin scored 10 while Darius McCall added three.

Lonoke then fell to Dollarway in the semifinals, 63-49.

Lonoke led 13-12 after one quarter but trailed 30-29 at halftime.

The Cardinals outscored the Jackrabbits 33-20 in the second half.

Rankin led Lonoke with 14 points. Young and Mack scored 11 points each. McCall had 10. Gray scored two while Brenton Bryant added a free throw.

The Jackrabbits then avenged a loss to Stuttgart in the semifinals of the district tournament by beating the Ricebirds 76-56 in the third-place game of the regionals Saturday.

Lonoke led 23-10 after one quarter and 39-31 at halftime.

Mack led Lonoke with 27 points. Young scored 20 points. He hit six three-pointers, including five in the first quarter.

Gray and Cedric Cooney had six points each. Scoring five each were Rankin and McCall. Jawuan Bryant scored four. Bryson Jackson added three.

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