By John R. Schirmer
LONOKE – Lonoke held off a fourth-quarter Nashville comeback attempt and defeated the Scrappers 50-39 in the semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament Monday afternoon at the Gina Cox Center on the campus of Lonoke High School.
The Scrappers led early in the game before Lonoke went on top 11-6 to end the first quarter.
By halftime, the Jackrabbits’ lead had grown to 21-13. In the third quarter, Lonoke outscored the Scrappers 15-10. The final quarter saw Nashville close the gap to within a couple of baskets as the Scrappers put up 16 point to Lonoke’s 14.
However, the rally fell short and the Jackrabbits pulled away for the 11-point win.
The Scrappers were plagued by missed shots from the field and from the free throw line. They completed 16 of 44 shots from the field for 36 percent. At the free throw line, Nashville was 6 of 16 for 37 percent.
Cameron Alexander and LaMichael Pettway were the leading scorers for the Scrappers with 11 points each. Brandon Shamrock added 7, with 5 from Darius Hopkins, 3 from Jamie Newton and 2 from Trey Hughes.
Alexander, Shamrock and Pettway were the leading rebounders with 8 each. Hopkins added 3 and Hughes recorded 4 against the Jackrabbits.
The Scrappers had 11 assists and 6 steals.
Black Mack led Lonoke with 13 points and 9 rebounds.
The Scrappers ended the season with a record of 17-13.
They were second in the District 7-4A tournament and third in the Class 4A South regional, both at Scrapper Arena.
Under first-year Coach Damon Williams, the Scrappers advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 1963 and secured the program’s first two wins at state last week against Stuttgart and Maumelle.
The team won its first game in the new Scrapper Arena Dec. 13 against Bauxite in the conference opener and its last game of the season at the arena, also against Bauxite in the regional tournament.
“It was an unbelievable season. We had the opportunity to win the whole thing,” Williams said Tuesday morning. “I think we can do it. I’m already looking forward to next season. We had a complete metamorphosis from the beginning of the season to the end.”
Scrapper fans traveled to Lonoke in droves for the semifinal game, the first time in school history for the Scrappers to advance that far in the state tournament.
Nashville students traveled to the game on two buses and with their families to cheer on the Scrappers. “The community really got behind the team, and it definitely helped the boys. They had never played in front of a crowd like this. It excited them to see the student body and fans.”
After the game, Williams looked toward the student section and clapped to thank the high school and junior high students who attended. “I clapped for our student section because they’re the best sixth man in basketball. I hope they’re at every game next season.”
Nashville opened the state tournament March 6 with a 60-50 win over Stuttgart.
The game was tied 9-9 in the first quarter, but the Scrappers went to halftime on top 26-19. The teams scored 13 points each in the third, and Nashville outscored Stuttgart 21-18 in the fourth.
The Scrappers hit 24 of 32 free throws for 75 percent and 14 of 41 shots from the field for 41 percent.
Nashville outrebounded Stuttgart 32-18.
Pettway was the Scrappers’ leading scorer with 17 points, followed by Hopkins and Alexander with 16 each, Shamrock with 7 and Hughes with 4.
Hughes led the team in rebounding with 10, followed by Alexander with 9.
“I thought if we contained Hamburg and kept them from the basket, we’d be okay. We did in the fourth quarter,” Williams said.
Nashville jumped out to a 19-6 lead in the first quarter, survived a Maumelle comeback and held on to defeated the top-seeded Hornets 66-65 Friday night.
The Scrappers led 55-44 going into the fourth quarter before Maumelle briefly took the lead. A basket by Hughes with 9 seconds left proved the winning shot for the Scrappers as they held on to win.
Pettway led the Scrappers with 18 points. Alexander and Hopkins added 15 a piece, with 14 from Shamrock and 4 from Hughes, including the game winner.
The Scrappers shot 52 percent from 2-point range, 57 percent from beyond the 3-point line and 48 percent from the free throw line.
Shamrock had 9 of the Scrappers’ 26 rebounds, with Pettway next at 7.
The win sent the Scrappers’ into the semifinals for the first time in school history.
“They’re playing well,” Williams said as the team began practice Sunday night. “They battled and did the things they need to do to win. I told them at the end that they needed one more rebound. It’s usually not the first shot that beats you; it’s the second.”
“Our guys realized that they are pretty good.”
The Friday night game was scheduled to begin at 8:30 but started around 9 p.m. after other games ran long. Players and fans arrived home between 1:30 and 2 a.m. Saturday.