Wednesday, February 21, 2007

SPORTS>>Red Devils seal spot in playoffs with win

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville pulled even in conference play and assured itself a spot in the state tournament with a 57-38 victory over West Memphis Friday night at the Devils’ Den. The Red Devils struggled through the first three quarters as the Blue Devils were able to control the pace of the game and keep it slow. That changed in the fourth quarter, when Jacksonville’s pressure finally got to the guard-shallow Blue Devils and the home team was able to pull away.

Jacksonville led 37-34 after three quarters, but outscored West Memphis 20-4 in the final frame to win going away. Jacksonville gave up just 14 points the entire second half. They came out in the first half and wanted to play zone because they can’t shoot from the outside,” Joyner said. “But we were getting lethargic. We let ‘em make some cuts on the backside and they got some easy baskets. We just had to keep the ball out of the paint and they were going to struggle. We finally tightened it up in the fourth quarter and they couldn’t score.”

Jacksonville began getting the ball into the paint in the fourth quarter. Most of the points in the fourth period came the same way they did in the first when Jacksonville went on an 11-0 run to open a 13-4 lead. They came from penetration. In the first quarter, it was senior guard LaMarcus Trask that did the damage, scoring seven straight points to spark the Red Devil run.
In the fourth, sophomore guard Antonio Washington came off the bench to score four straight points off dribble penetration to make it 41-34. After a West Memphis miss, senior Kajuan Watson hit a three to make it a 10-point advantage and forcing West Memphis to call timeout.

The Blue Devils missed a shot and broke down on defense, allowing Washington to slip behind everyone for an easy layup. He was also fouled and hit the free throw to make it 47-34 with 4:59 left in the game. West Memphis finally broke up the 10-0 run with a bucket by Terrence Winkfield.

Jacksonville’s Terrell Eskridge broke down his man and got to the rack to make it 49-36. Michael Prackett then scored the Blue Devils’ final points with 3:10 left in the game and Jacksonville closed with an 8-0 run, mostly from the foul line.
Watson led all scorers with 16 points, Trask added 12 and Washington scored nine, all in the fourth quarter. Eskridge chipped in eight points for the Red Devils, who improved to 12-10 on the season and 6-6 in conference play. The win put Jacksonville in fourth place and two games ahead of fifth place Sylvan Hills with only two games to go. Jacksonville swept the Bears this season, so a tiebreaker would go to the Red Devils.

Jacksonville is a game behind 7-5 Searcy for third place and the third seed in the state tournament. Forrest City and Jonesboro finished the week tied for first at 11-1. The two teams played last night after Leader deadlines for the conference title. Forrest City won the first matchup between the two teams at Jonesboro. The Mustangs’ lone loss came to the Red Devils last Tuesday.

Jacksonville played Mountain Home last night, and will finish the season hosting Jonesboro Friday. The Lady Devils couldn’t keep up with top-ranked West Memphis and fell 72-30. It was another decent start for the Jacksonville ladies. They were within four points until just a few seconds remained in the opening quarter. West Memphis scored five straight to end the period with a 19-10 lead, and Jacksonville fell apart.

The Blue Devils took a 44-16 lead into halftime and stretched that lead to 70-26 by the end of the third. Junior Tashley Gaines led West Memphis with 14 points. Tarneshia Scott led Jacksonville with 12. The Lady Devils are still just one game behind Jonesboro for the final playoff spot. They finish the season against Jonesboro Friday.