LONOKE — Star City saw its 4A state tournament run come to an abrupt end Thursday afternoon as it lost 52-44 to tourney-host Lonoke inside the Gina Cox Center.
Star City, who finished the regular season undefeated in the 8-4A conference, was completely overmatched inside against Lonoke’s size and strength in the post.
“They were bigger than we were in the paint and more aggressive than we were in the paint,” Star City head coach Becky Brown said.
The Lady Dogs (26-4) trailed for most of the game, but were able to regain the lead in the third quarter thanks to an 8-0 run midway through the period.
Trailing 26-20, Star City junior Jaida Harden scored to get the Lady Dogs within four points. She followed with another bucket thanks to an assist from Charity Davidson.
Freshman Larena Walker made 1 of 2 from the free-throw line with 2:46 left in the third and got the Lady Dogs within one.
A three-point play by Harden with 2:34 left gave Star City a two-point lead.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as Lonoke sophomore Jarrelyn McCall scored four straight points — including a pair of free throws — to give the Lady Jackrabbits a 30-28 lead with 1:43 left in the third.
“I just think they outplayed us,” Brown said. “All around they are just a better ballclub than we are right now.”
Star City earned a No. 3 seed for the state tournament after losing 48-37 to Central Arkansas Christian in the semifinals of the 4A South regional in Nashville.
“I’m very proud of our kids,” Brown said. “As small as they are, they have big hearts.
“They never gave up and they played as hard as they could all four quarters.”
Star City struggled at the free-throw line, making 14 of 23 (61 percent) from the stripe.
“The last few ballgames, we haven’t been able to step up and knock free throws down,” Brown said.
Star City took a 31-30 lead to start the fourth quarter thanks to a pair of free throws from Harden with 7:46 left in the game.
After McCall answered for Lonoke with a two-point basket, Harden scored again along the baseline to give the Lady Dogs a 33-32 lead with 6:43 left.
Harden finished with a game-high 23 points — including 7 of 13 from the free-throw line — she also had seven rebounds and five assists.
For Lonoke, McCall finished with a team-high 21 points.
“I think their height inside just intimidated us,” Brown said.
Lonoke secured the victory with a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 48-38 with less than two minutes left in the game.
“We played a lot of young kids,” Brown said. “Hopefully this experience will help us in the future.”
Star City senior Lindsay Kiernan had nine points, nine rebounds (five offensive) and three steals in her final game. Walker finished with eight points including 4 of 5 from the free-throw line.
Junior Ebonie Willis and junior Amanda Sexton contributed with seven points each for Lonoke. Keresha Johnson chipped in with eight and Callie Whitfield had nine points.
Lonoke advances to play Farmington — which earned a bye in the first round after winning the North Region — at 7 p.m. Friday.
Nashville 60, Stuttgart 50
LONOKE — Three Nashville players scored in double digits as the Scrappers eliminated Stuttgart from the 4A state tournament Thursday night with a 60-50 win inside the Gina Cox Center at Lonoke High School.
Darius Hopkins and Lamichael Pettway scored 17 points each for Nashville and Cameron Alexander contributed with 16 points.
Hopkins was 14 of 16 from the free-throw line and Alexander was 6 of 9 from the stripe.
Nashville had a 26-19 lead at the half.
Lexus Hobbs led Stuttgart with 17 points and Alante Stewart contributed with 10 points.
Nashville advances and will play Maumelle at 8:30 p.m. Friday.