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Jackrabbits making memories as they play in state title game

Members of the Lonoke Jackrabbits basketball team are greeted by primary school students before the team went to Hot Springs to practice Wednesday at Summit Arena in preparation for today’s state championship game against Brookland. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)Buy Photo
Members of the Lonoke Jackrabbits basketball team are greeted by primary school students before the team went to Hot Springs to practice Wednesday at Summit Arena in preparation for today’s state championship game against Brookland. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)

This year’s Lonoke Jackrabbits basketball team is making memories according to their coach Dean Campbell.

Lonoke will play Brookland for the Class 4A state title at Summit Arena today at 5:15 p.m. in Hot Springs.

Campbell said this year’s team is a group that has been together a while, having won the 4A-2 district title three years ago in the ninth grade.

“This has been on their radar the whole time,” Campbell said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them to get to experience this. They are making memories and the bond that they are going to have after this is not going to be like any other they will ever have with other students.

“When they come back in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, they are going to be able to look back, and regardless of what happens Thursday, have a memory that’s going to be something no one else can share with them except for just that group.”

Campbell was an assistant to Wes Swift when the Jackrabbits won the 2008 state title.

“Every year is different; every deal is different,” Campbell said. “It probably does help me be more at ease. I’ve been there, not in the same role but Wes did a great of having me involved from the ground floor up. I was able to give my opinion on a lot of stuff. And he definitely made me feel like I was a part of what we were doing, not just an assistant coach or a bus driver.”

Brookland advanced to the state title game with a 22-21 overtime win over Monticello on Monday at the Gina Cox Center. The Bearcats are coached by Bobby Gross.

“We had never won a state tournament game until last year and we’re facing a team that has won multiple state championships,” Gross said. “It’s great for our school and community and our program. It’s a great opportunity to put Brookland on the map statewide.”

The Bearcats are led by senior point guard C.J. Henry.

“He’s the quarterback on the floor and he gets us into everything,” Gross said. “He’s a good defender.”

Other key players includes shooting guard Chandler Thompson, a senior. “He shoots the ball real well,” Gross said.

The Bearcats are anchored in the post by junior Dillon Groves and senior William Ballard.

“Will is about 6-2 and Dillon is about 6 foot … they are are kind of undersized posts but they are real strong and play physically,” Gross said.

Brookland is known for its defense, according to Gross.

“Halfcourt man-to-man,” he said. “We want to take you out of what you do best and really apply a lot of pressure in the halfcourt and control the game that way.”

Gross said on offense, his team will try to be patient on offense.

“It’s what turned into on both sides against Monticello,” he said. “They played as good defense as we did and possessions were very valuable so each team was very picky on the shots and very patient.”

Campbell said Brookland is a “very good team.”

“They control the tempo so much,” he said. “We’re just going to have to continue to guard and rebound like we have been the past week. I think that has been a real key and focus for our guys. When we have opportunities to score, we’re definitely going to have to do it because they are such a team that grinds it out. That is the way Coach Gross likes to play. We’re going to have to take advantage of opportunities, take advantage of when we have times to get into transition. If we don’t, we’ll have to grind it out as well.”

Campbell said he thinks the game is a “decent” matchup for both teams.

“I think we pose some problems for them just as they pose some problems for us,” he said. “The best team that handles those will be the one that probably comes out on top.”

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