Tuesday, December 21, 2010

SPORTS>>Jacksonville, Mills help provide thrills

Leader sportswriter

The showdown between Jacksonville’s Jessica Jackson and Mills’ Jasmine Perkins ended in a virtual dead heat.

So did the game itself.

It took Mills two overtimes and a pair of missed Jacksonville free throws to beat the Lady Red Devils 62-57 in the Red Devil Classic at Jacksonville on Monday.

Perkins and Jackson each finished with 25 points to lead their teams. Jackson outrebounded Perkins 10-6 and each had three steals.

But Jacksonville’s Melissa Miller had to miss two free throws with no time left in the first overtime before Mills could pull away for the victory.

“Early on, from the start, we had trouble catching the ball,” Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms said. “Finishing underneath the goal — blocks, layups – just missed opportunities I guess is what you would call it. Too many missed opportunities and not a very good free-throw percentage.”

Miller proved to be a competent free-throw shooter when she went 2 for 2 in the second quarter and hit 1 of 2 in the third, but she could not recapture the magic with the game on the line.

Jacksonville’s Tiffany Smith tied it 51-51 with 25 seconds left in the first overtime when she went up and under off a baseline drive, and a traveling call against Mills’ Sasha Carter gave Jacksonville a chance to set up the winning play.

The designed play was a toss from Jackson to Miller with the intent of Jackson pulling defenders out of position. The shot did not fall, but Carter committed her fifth foul to send Miller to the free-throw line with six seconds left.

Miller missed both shots but got her rebound. The officials called another inside foul against the Lady Comets just as the buzzer sounded, to the chagrin of the Mills bench.

Miller needed just one free throw to secure victory, but her first shot rolled off the side and Miller missed the rim on the second try.

Mills then outscored Jacksonville 11-6 in the second overtime to lock up the victory.

Jacksonville (6-5) experienced letdowns at the free throw line throughout. The Lady Red Devils finished 15 of 33 while Mills was more efficient at 18 of 27.

Smith was a spark off the bench for the Lady Red Devils with eight points and five rebounds. Half of her points came in the first overtime period.

“She played pretty well,” Mimms said. “She’s coming on, she’s a ninth-grader. She’s going to have some nights where she plays well and nights where she’s not going to do as well just from being a ninth-grader.”

Jackson scored her first points with 4:08 left in the first quarter off a backdoor assist from junior post player Nichole Bennett.

The Lady Comets played Jackson soft in the first eight minutes and most of the second quarter, and Jackson piled up 10 first-half points as a result.

“It was kind of surprising because we had played them before and she had a really good game against them last time,” Mimms said.

“Once they kind of came up on her, she was dishing to the right people, we just couldn’t finish what we needed to finish.”