Wednesday, January 09, 2008

SPORTS >> Red Devils open strong

Leader news editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils got off to a good start in reversing their pre-conference fortunes last Friday night. After struggling to a 3-9 record through the first six weeks of the season, the Red Devils beat Marion 45-35 on the road to start 6A-East play on a positive note.

Jacksonville got out to an early lead and stretched it to as much as 15 points in the second half before slowing the game down and holding on for the victory.

“We’re just trying to manufacture some wins,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “We lost some games late because of decision making. The way that game was starting to turn, the way it was being officiated, we thought the best thing to do was slow it down. I think we did a good job of that. We didn’t let the tide turn on us too much. The kids kept their poise and made good basketball decisions.”

Although an uncommon tactic by Joyner, it worked well from the beginning. Joyner called the all-out stall game with just less than five minutes left in the game. His team kept that possession, and more importantly the ball away from the Patriots, for more than two-and-a-half minutes.

“It’s all been about basketball decisions from day one,” Joyner said. “The biggest difference this time is that we made the right ones for the most part. We had some guys step up that didn’t necessarily score a lot, but made smart decisions down the stretch.”

The Red Devils also put together their best performance of the season down low. Junior post player Cortrell Eskridge led the team with 16 points to mark the first time this year a post player has led the team in scoring.

“We’ve been doing a pretty decent job of getting the ball to those guys all year,” Joyner said. “It’s been a matter of those guys not finishing when they get it. We got a little more active, got some strong rebounds on the offensive end. That’s something that those guys have got to understand. If they don’t get it off the pass, they have to go up strong and get it off the boards. They did a lot better, took a good step forward in this game.”

With juniors Antonio Roy and Antwan Lockhart combining for 10 points, it also marked the first time this season that well over half of Jacksonville’s total points came from the post.

Joyner said his guards played well also. The team’s leading scorer, junior LaQuentin Miles, only scored four points, but still drew praises from Joyner.

“He just played smart,” Joyner said. “He didn’t force anything and took care of the ball when that’s all we were trying to do.”
Sophomore DeShone McClure, who seems to be the second-leading scorer in every game, continued his consistent play with 11 points for the Red Devils.

“McClure and Terrell Eskridge have been the two most consistent guys,” Joyner said. “They still have their share of mistakes, but those are two guys we don’t worry about too much.”

The win lifted the Red Devils to 4-9 overall, and 1-0 in conference play. The latter record, Joyner says, is the only one that matters.

“At this point that is all that matters,” Joyner said. “Nothing we did before Friday has anything to do with winning a conference or state championship.”

The Lady Devils led the Lady Patriots most of the game, but went south when sophomore post player Jessica Lanier fouled out early in the fourth quarter.

The 6-foot-1Lanier helped neutralize Marion’s overall height advantage, but with her on the bench, the Lady Patriots rallied for a 61-56 win.

That dropped Jacksonville to 4-8 overall and 0-1 in league play.