Friday, January 02, 2009

SPORTS>>Lady Red Devils take 2nd

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils’ appearance in the finals of their own Red Devil Classic on Tuesday in a 50-29 loss to West Memphis proved two things — that the program is on the rise after losing out in the first round for most of the decade, and that they still have their work cut out for them in one of the toughest conferences in the state.

The Lady Blue Devils (8-4) struck early as they built a 21-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, and slowly increased that margin over the final three periods. Jacksonville’s performance was still well-rounded despite the loss, with an eight-point, eight-rebound output by junior post Jessica Lanier to lead the way.

Lanier and senior guard Tyra Terry were named to the all-tournament team, while West Memphis center Jazimen Gordon took tourney MVP honors with a game-leading 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“For us to even get a second-place trophy, that’s progress,” said Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms, now in her third season at the helm. “And that’s something you take and you build on. We’re building for the future, because we only start one senior, so we’re still extremely young.”

The 6-foot Lanier gave up two inches of height to Gordon on the boards, and the West Memphis standout took advantage with eight defensive rebounds that limited the Lady Red Devils’ opportunities at second-chance shots. Lanier compensated with some nice jumpers from outside the low block, including a nice 15-footer at the 3:22 mark of the first quarter that made it 13-6.

The Lady Blue Devils answered with a 6-0 run before Lanier put up another basket before the end of the period, and started the second quarter off with another shot that made it 21-12.

“She has a tendency to try and pop out of the post a little, which I don’t have a problem with,” Mimms said. “But from time to time, we need her to get big, and get somebody down in there to get us somepoints. That’s what I want to work toward.

“I know at the next level, she’s going to be more of a forward, pop-out scorer, but for us, the best thing for her to do is when we get in those spots, for her to post up hard and give us those good looks.”

The pace of the game slowed dramatically in the second half, as Jacksonville (6-6) managed only four points in each of the two final quarters. The Lady Red Devils did improve on defense, however, holding the Lady Blue Devils in single digits in both the third and fourth periods.

With West Memphis expected to be one of the frontrunners in the 6A East Conference this season, Mimms said the experience should be beneficial down the road.

“I almost would rather play them (in the finals),” Mimms said. “At least I have them on film now. We can make some adjustments on what we did, and it gives us more of an idea on how to play them. There are some things we could have done different. We got some good shots, but we just didn’t convert them.”

Appolonia Sims added six points and five rebounds for Jacksonville. Terry and Crystal Washington each had five points, with four rebounds and three steals for Terry. For West Memphis, Crystal Riley had eight points.

Mimms expects the 6A East to be top-heavy this season with West Memphis and Parkview dominant, but said the battle for the remaining seeds could be a dogfight.

“After that, I feel like everybody is pretty level. We can beat anybody if we play well and take care of the basketball. We’ve got the size. We don’t have big size, we don’t have two huge girls, but Lanier is pretty good size, and Simms is a strong girl. The main thing for us right now is learning how to execute against the man-to-man defense.”

Jacksonville will begin 6A East play on Tuesday at Little Rock Parkview.