In a 3-minute span, Jamel Rankin scored 16 straight Lonoke points and made four steals. Just like that, it was a new ballgame.
Rankin then hit four clutch free throws in the final 2 minutes, helping the Jackrabbits snap Dollarway’s 17-game winning streak Thursday with a 59-55 victory in Dollarway Fieldhouse. The Jackrabbits moved within a half-game of the Cardinals in the 2-4A Conference race.
Rankin, a point guard, scored 18 of his game-high 22 points and came up with five steals in the fourth quarter alone to help the Jackrabbits (13-4, 8-1 in 2-4A) erase a 43-32 deficit. Lonoke took a 51-50 lead on a Blake Mack three-point basket with 4:47 remaining and hit 7 of 11 free throws from there.
“Really and truly, we needed a game like this to let them know we aren’t invincible,” Dollarway coach Ellis Berry said. “What we got to do now is gather ourselves and bounce back (tonight) at Newport.”
Rankin’s fifth swipe was the biggest of the game. He missed 1 of 2 free throws that would have given Lonoke a four-point lead with 21.8 seconds left, but he picked Joshua Liddell’s pocket at midcourt in transition and went back to the line to hit 1 of 2.
“I felt like we needed to step up on defense, and defense wins games,” Rankin said. “If we stepped up on defense, we were going to win.”
Jeremiah Young, who led Dollarway (17-2, 9-1 in 2-4A) with 20 points, made a breakaway dunk with 6 seconds left to close the gap to 57-55, but Mack put the game away with two bonus shots.
Dollarway had led since the 1:18 mark of the first quarter and took a 32-23 halftime lead after Kabion Ento scored off a rebound before the buzzer. The Cardinals kept the Jackrabbits at bay most of the game by heavily contesting their short-range shots defensively and breaking down their man-to-man scheme offensively.
But Rankin found a way to take over the game and Berry saw it coming.
“I ain’t going to say we panicked, but we got away from what we were doing,” Berry said. “We were doing just the opposite. They were getting shots inside and we were jacking up threes.”
Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said he didn’t have to tell the Jackrabbits to be more aggressive on offense.
“That’s just what we want to do,” he said. “The fact that we weren’t early possibly concerns me. They know to go attack, and that’s what we really focus on.”
Ento had 19 points and five rebounds and DeAaron Adway registered eight points and six boards for Dollarway. Mack finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, and Reid McKenzie added 10 points for Lonoke.