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Lady Rabbits, Star City renew rivalry in state tourney

Lonoke’s Jarrelyn McCall is fouled against Heber Springs during the Lady Jackrabbits’ win over the Lady Panthers on Feb. 14 at the Gina Cox Center. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)Buy Photo
Lonoke’s Jarrelyn McCall is fouled against Heber Springs during the Lady Jackrabbits’ win over the Lady Panthers on Feb. 14 at the Gina Cox Center. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)

When the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits play Star City in the first round of the state tournament today at 4 p.m. at the Gina Cox Center, it will be a matchup between familiar foes playing on one of the biggest stages.

Lonoke beat Star City 52-42 in the Class 4A state semifinals in 2009. Earlier in the season, Lonoke beat the Lady Bulldogs 55-44 in the finals of the Beebe Christmas tournament.

Lonoke also beat Star City 31-28 in the finals of the Beebe Christmas tournament in 2009.

Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said Star City is a “tradition-rich program.”

“We’ve had a lot of battles with them over the years,” he said. “Becky Brown does a great job with their kids. They are always going to play hard. They are going to press pretty well. They are probably a little younger than they have been. They are a young team but a hard-playing team.”

Morris said his team will have its hands full with the Lady Bulldogs.

“We do feel good about the matchup,” he said. “We feel like we match up with them pretty good in spots. We’re looking forward to it.”

This is Lonoke’s first appearance in the state tournament since 2010. That year, the Lady Jackrabbits lost to Prairie Grove in the Class 4A state semifinals.

“That is something you always set out to do,” Morris said. “That’s the goal of ours ever year to make the state tournament. It’s a big feat. There were a few years where we were there all the time.”

Morris said his team is playing its best basketball of the season, having won the 4A-2 district tournament then getting fourth in the Class 4A-East Region tournament last week.

“We had a big district tournament win that got us a good draw in the regional and here we are now.” Morris said.

Lonoke’s first-round game was originally scheduled for Wednesday but all state tournaments were pushed back to a Thursday start because of icy weather that hit Arkansas on Sunday night and into Monday morning.

Morris didn’t think the delay was a “big deal.”

“The delay probably gives us another day to get ready,” he said. “We had a good practice today [Tuesday]. We will go back and specify a few things tomorrow [Wednesday], get real specific on sets and plays. I feel like it will help. An extra day is always better with us.”

Lonoke qualified for the Class 4A state tournament with a 36-32 win over Pocahontas in the first round of the regional last week.

Lonoke trailed 4-3 after one quarter. Eboni Willis scored all four points. The Lady Jackrabbits came alive in the second quarter, outscoring the Lady Redskins 18-8 to lead 21-12 at halftime.

Lonoke held off a late rally in the second half to get the victory.

Jarrelyn McCall led Lonoke with 12 points. Willis scored nine. Callie Whitfield added seven. Amanda Sexton scored six while Kerasha Johnson added a field goal.

Lonoke lost to Brookland 64-56 in the regional semifinals.

Brookland led 17-4 after one quarter and 33-20 at halftime.

McCall led Lonoke with 31 points. Willis scored 12. Sexton added eight. Whitfield finished with three.

In the third-place game Saturday, Lonoke led 8-3 after one quarter but lost to Heber Springs 40-30.

Lonoke scored only four points in the fourth quarter after leading 26-23 after three quarters.

Willis led Lonoke with 14 points. McCall had eight. Whitfield had five. Johnson added three.

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