Tuesday, February 05, 2008

SPORTS > > Devils survive chilly shooting

Leader sports editor

They probably won’t want to send a film of this one to the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., but it was a critical, if not-very-pretty win for Jacksonville on Friday night at The Devils Den.

The Red Devils overcame 25 percent shooting with a 15-rebound performance from Cortrell Eskridge and solid free-throw shooting to beat Marion, 47-38, and remain just a game behind Jonesboro in the 6A-East.

Despite limiting the Patriots to 15-of-46 shooting, Jacksonville head coach Vic Joyner was anything but pleased with his team’s defense. “We struggled to contain the ball,” he said. “We didn’t stay down and we didn’t help with recover de-fense. It was a dismal defensive game.”

In the second half, it was a different story, though. Jacksonville held the Patriots to just 6-of-25 shooting, including 2-of-12 from beyond the arc. With the Red Devils making only three second-half field goals, that, along with 16-of-22 free-throw shooting in the second half, proved the difference.

It was Jacksonville’s third game in five days, but Joyner thought player rotation throughout the week kept fatigue from becoming much of a factor. “We kept them pretty fresh,” he said. “We took it easy in practice on Thursday. It helps playing 10 kids a lot this year. Having those kids come off the bench and play three or four or five minutes was the key to victory.
“Darrius Morant came off the bench and played really well. I look for him to increase his minutes.” Morant had two assists, two points and three rebounds.

Eight Red Devils scored in the game, led by LaQuinton Miles and Cortrell Eskridge, who scored 10 apiece. Jacksonville got only 12 points and seven rebounds from its post — a position that had begun to develop over the past several games. Joyner thought it was a result of Marion’s defensive strategy on Friday. “We know people are going to double down on [Antwan] Lockhart and [Antonio] Roy,” he said. “We’ve got to expect that. We have to make adjustments.”

Adding to the difficulty in the post was Jacksonville’s 2-of-16 shooting from three-point range. Sophomore DeShone McClure struggled from the perimeter and finished with seven points.

The game was close throughout, and Jacksonville led only 32-30 after making only 1-of-12 field goals in the third quarter. Fortunately for the Red Devils, they caught fire at the line in the second half, making 15-of-16 at one point. Two free throws eachby Cortrell Eskridge and Lockhart to start the final period extended the Jacksonville lead to six.

After going 8:15 without a field goal, Jacksonville scored twice in 20 seconds — on a Cortrell Eskridge stickback, and on a fast break bucket by Miles with 5:20 left. Four more free throws grew the lead to 44-32 with 4:12 left, and Jacksonville cruised from there to improve to 10-10 overall, 7-1 in conference play. They remain one game behind Jonesboro.

Lockhart added nine points, five rebounds and a block. Terrell Eskridge grabbed seven rebounds and two steals, while handing out two assists. Miles had six boards, two assists and two blocks. Jacksonville finished with a 40-31 edge on the boards, and committed only 12 turnovers.

“These kids are single-minded,” Joyner said of his team, which won for the seventh time in eight games. “They’re playing to have a chance to win a conference title and win a state title. They know they’ve got a target on their back. “You have to be able to take punches and stay on your feet. And we have a lot of inexperienced kids. This is new for them having teams coming after you with all that passion and intensity.”

The Red Devils visited Searcy last night in a game played after Leader deadlines.


The Lady Red Devils couldn’t have played much better in the first half, nor much worse in the second. Jacksonville lost an 18-point second-half lead in falling to 1-7 in league play.

Twenty-two turnovers after intermission — 33 overall — were just too many to overcome a Marion team that heated up after intermission. The Lady Patriots got 20 points from Jerricka Boykins and 11 from Chance Brown.

The loss negated an outstanding first-half performance by the Lady Devils, who took a 34-16 lead into the locker room after making 14-of-24 shots, as well as a 22-point, 11-rebound, three-block performance by Jessica Lanier.

“Marion went to man-to-man after halftime, and we just don’t have the guards to bring it up against that kind of pressure,” said disappointed Jacksonville head coach Katrina Mimms. “If you play me a zone, I’ve got the plays to run against it. Marion did what they had to do to get back in it.”

Which was to get out of the zone and into a halfcourt pressure man defense.

When Kita Walker scored inside 40 seconds into the second half to extend Jacksonville’s lead to 18 points, it seemed like only the final score was left in doubt. But six Lady Devil turnovers over the next three minutes resulted in a 14-2 Marion run.
Lanier’s putback with 24 seconds left in the third still had Jacksonville with a comfortable 41-32 lead. But Boykins hit one of many crazy Lady Patriot shots on the night, fumbling an inbounds pass on the right wing, then heaving in a three-pointer as the gun went off to close the gap to six heading into the final period.

That was the beginning of a 16-0 run that had Marion up 48-41 midway through the final period. Jacksonville got within four on Lanier’s two free throws with 3:24 left, but never any closer.

“I’m disappointed,” Mimms said. “They’re disappointed. Jessica had a good game, but when you can’t get the ball in to her, there’s not much you can do.”

Marion wasn’t exactly efficient with the basketball, either, coughing it up 29 times. Tyra Terry had eight of Jacksonville’s 19 steals, while Shanita Johnson had six.

Crystal Washington scored 11 points, while Terry added eight and Johnson seven. Johnson also dished out four assists.