Monday, January 07, 2008

SPORTS >> Sylvan Hills loses league openers to Golden Hurricane

Leader sports editor

Jonesboro pulled an inside job on Sylvan Hills on Friday night in the 6A-East Conference opener for both teams.
The defending state champion Hurricane scored 26 of their 29 baskets in the paint and out-rebounded the Bears 40-20 on their way to a 71-57 win at the SHHS gymnasium.

“They knew we were little and they took advantage,” said Sylvan Hills head coach Kevin Davis, whose team was even smaller on Friday with the absence of forward P.J. Ross to illness. “It hurt not having P.J. in there. It left a void in there. We just didn’t do a very good job at all.”

While Jonesboro was whipping the ball inside to Terrence Walker for easy buckets on the blocks, the Bears were firing up quick, often well-defended threes. Still, Kai Randolph, who led the Bears with 20 points on five three-pointers, kept Sylvan Hills close, and the Bears were tied at 18 after one period.

Eleven of the first 15 shots the Bears took in the game were from beyond the arc, while Jonesboro’s first 12 shots were twos. The Hurricane launched only three threes all night. They were content to feed Walker, who led the way with 32 points. All 17 of Jonesboro’s baskets in the first half were inside.

Sylvan Hills, meanwhile, took 27 threes in the game, making nine.

“We weren’t near unselfish enough,” Davis said. “We took quicker threes than we wanted. And we had some guys that are not our first option taking threes. We just didn’t have the will to get into our offense and we were too quick to settle for hurried shots.

“That’s the thing that’s most frustrating as a coach is that we didn’t have the team toughness tonight, didn’t bring it. A lot of that could have been not having Ross in there.”

Jonesboro began to dominate the glass in the second period, when they began to establish a comfortable lead. Two layups in the final 17 second allowed the Hurricane to get to the locker room with a 39-30 lead.

The Bears twice pulled within six points in the third quarter, the second time on Randolph’s fifth three of the game with 4:47 left in the third period. But it was the last points for Randolph, and Jonesboro scored eight straight points and never was threatened again.

“No matter how good you shoot it, it’s going to go dry on you at times,” Davis said. “You have to have basketball savvy to get to the basket and go inside, even if you’re smaller. We shoot five free throws tonight. You’ve got to get to the foul line. That goes back to toughness.”

One kid that played tough on Friday was Cameron Robinson, who used his bulk to collect seven rebounds and score nine points.

“He’s only 5-11, but he’ll battle you inch for inch,” Davis said. “Whatever we got down there, he gave us.”

Robinson also dished out three assists, as did Deyonte Davis, who also added eight points and two steals. Keilan Sprouse scored seven points and handed out three assists.

Sylvan Hills (5-8, 0-1) made 22-of-53 shots overall, and 4-of-5 free throws. The Hurricane converted 29-of-52 shots, and 13-of-21 from the line.

Mountain Home comes calling on Monday. Davis expects to have Ross back for that one.

“Ross has some speed and can help with transition defense as well give us an opportunity to run more on offense,” Davis said. “When we get P.J. back, we’ll see how we respond. Hopefully, a game like tonight maybe sends a message.

“This is a team of perimeter players and it’s tough to teach perimeter players to play inside. We have lots to work on. We’ll start at 8 a.m. [today].”

Jonesboro girls 59, Sylvan Hills 41

Bee Rodden tried a lot of different things to slow down Jonesboro on Friday night. Almost none of them worked.

There was the 1-3-1 the Sylvan Hills Lady Bears head coach started with. The Lady Hurricane knocked down three threes. Then there was the box-and-one in the third quarter. The Lady Hurricane went inside for easy baskets. The end result was a 59-41 Jonesboro win to open 6A-East Conference play.

“They shot us right out of that zone,” said Rodden, whose Lady Bears dropped to 2-12 overall. “The box-and-one didn’t work. They were killing us inside. We just can’t get everyone on the same page. We’re so young.”

Young and not very deep. Rodden had only 10 on her bench. Five of those were sophomores, and another didn’t play last year. Jonesboro, meanwhile, could barely find a seat for everyone on their roster.

They needed only one, though. Calandra Graham lit up the Lady Bears for 25 points, mostly on nifty moves on the blocks.

But Sylvan Hills stayed with the Lady Hurricane after falling into an 18-6 hole after one, narrowing the gap to 28-25 right before half. Jonesboro, though, began to pull away in the third period with Lady Bear star Trinity Thomas on the bench with four fouls. Thomas got all eight of her points in the first half.

Terica Kendrick led Sylvan Hills with 10 points. Latrina Brandon and Shay Sullivan added seven.

“We competed hard,” Rodden said. “The effort is good. But when we had to pull Trinity, we struggled. She’s our only leader.”