Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SPORTS>>Devils, defense do job in final

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY — Less than a day after Jacksonville tamed host Conway to reach the finals of the Wampus Cat Invitational, Red Devil post players De’Shjon Penn and Tirrell Brown tamed a different kind of beast in the 55-46 championship victory over Jonesboro at Buzz Bolding Arena on Saturday.

That beast was Jonesboro senior post player Ayo Ojo, who led the Hurricane with dominant inside performances during the week. But Penn and Brown kept Ojo, 6-7, out of the mix most of Saturday night.

Ojo still finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, most of them defensive, but compared to his performances against North Pulaski and Fayetteville, Ojo’s night was a disappointment for the Hurricane.

“It was hard; he’s a good player,” Brown said. “I just had to work hard and stay in front of him with my feet to keep him off the boards. They gave me the task of trying to stay with him, with no help from our guards to keep them out of foul trouble.”

Senior shooting guard Raheem Appleby led the Red Devils against Sylvan Hills and Conway, but the strain of those performances had taken their toll by championship night.

Appleby finished with a game-high 14 points despite his sluggish feet, but it took an additional 12 points from Jamison Williams and 10 from Jonathan Patterson to overcome Jonesboro (6-2) in what amounted to a 6A-East Conference preview.

“We had to be more patient to stop their dribble drives,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “Their dribble drives were killing us in that fourth quarter. We ran some motion where the big man had to come out away from the basket. It allowed our big men to get inside.”

Penn’s block-outs against Ojo allowed Jacksonville guards in to grab defensive rebounds and Williams took advantage with a team-high eight. Most of Ojo’s points came on late, putback dunks as the Hurricane tried to rally from a 13-point deficit to start the fourth quarter.

“I challenged him,” Joyner said of Ojo. “He’s the heart and soul of that team — he’s the reason they’re in the finals. He’s been mopping up on everybody inside, and I thought De’shjon Penn came out, started on him and did a nice job, then Brown came in there and did an outstanding job.

“So those two guys came in and pretty much shut him down, they did what I asked them to do, they banged with him.”

Williams scored with 6:39 left in the second quarter to tie the game at 14, and made a pair of baskets for the lead midway through the period. One basket came when Micah Walker passed the ball right to Williams for a turnover and breakaway layup and the other was dunk that came courtesy of a defensive rebound and long outlet pass from Patterson.

“When you play two games in two days, everybody’s got to help,” Joyner said. “I wish I could have kicked a couple in for them. We had to play hard against Conway to get here, and we had to play hard against Jonesboro too.”

It was the second tournament finals loss in two weeks for Jonesboro.

“Third quarter, we went cold,” coach Wes Swift said. “We’ve lost two games this year, both in the third quarter. I don’t know what we shot, but it wasn’t good. We couldn’t make a shot.

“We had several shots to tie, a couple of shots to take the lead, none of them went down. Jacksonville’s a good team, and they capitalized.”

Walker led the Hurricane with 13 points while Ojo and Colby Inboden each added 11.

For a team expected to search for its identity after the loss of Deshone McClure, now at Oklahoma’s Seminole State College, the Red Devils are instead 7-0 with a tournament championship under their belts.

“We’re still rebuilding,” Joyner said.

“We’ve still got work to do. We had some people out there tonight that stepped up. Everybody contributed, and that’s what you’re looking for. We found some guys tonight who can step up in big moments and take big shots.”

Jacksonville 61, Fair 39

Sophomore forward Jessica Jackson and junior post player Nichole Bennett each had 13 points, and the Lady Red Devils marched to a 22-7 lead over the winless Lady War Eagles and never looked back.

Sophomore Melissa Miller added eight points while Cedijah Peoples had seven and Jaquia Alexander scored six. Jania Williams led Fair with 21 points while Chesary Lane scored 12.