Friday, February 25, 2011

SPORTS >> Appleby dishes versus Searcy ‘D’

Leader sports editor

It was a respectable night for Ole Miss signee Jamal Jones of Searcy.

But it was another stellar night at home for Jacksonville’s Raheem Appleby.

Appleby, the Red Devils’ senior scoring leader, scored a game-high 31 points as Jacksonville beat Searcy 80-48 on Wednesday and closed in on a 6A-East Conference championship.

“We played a bunch of people and unfortunately for Searcy, he can’t go that deep right now,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said.

The Red Devils outscored the Lions 14-0 to open the game and held a double-digit lead the rest of the way. The fast start was especially gratifying after Jacksonville scratched out a 67-59 overtime victory at West Memphis the previous night, with Appleby scoring a team-high 18 points.

Wednesday’s game was the last of Jacksonville’s weather-related makeups.

“We’ve got one more game; if we win it we’re conference champs,” Joyner said. “Hopefully we’ll know our seeding by then.”

In one stretch during the second quarter, Appleby hit a jumper and two consecutive three-pointers to run the lead to 32-17, then he made a layup on a fastbreak, got a steal and went all the way for another layup to make it 36-19.

After a three-point play by Jacksonville’s Terrell Brown, Appleby closed out the half with a short jumper and two free throws to make it 43-26, and he went to the locker room with 22 points.

“Raheem is doing what Raheem does,” Joyner said.

“I think Appleby missed maybe two shots all night,” Searcy coach Jim Summers said. “He’s a great player.”

Jones banged his knee early in the game and was not in top form the rest of the way, though he led Searcy with 13 points.

“He was a little gimpy,” Joyner said. “But he was pretty darn good even when he was gimpy.”

It didn’t help Searcy that it was also playing a compressed schedule because of makeup games.

“They just came out and punched us right in the nose there,” Summers said. “And I don’t want to use it as an excuse but fatigue got to us. When you don’t have confidence and fatigue is setting in a little bit, you get a little frustrated.”

Once the game got out of hand, Summers began resting his players to conserve strength for Friday’s finale with Marion.

Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, Searcy entered Friday with a lock on the sixth seed to the 6A state tournament.

“We were down 15 or 16 going into the fourth, we hadn’t been hitting shots; there was no need in trying to drag it out,” Summers said.

Searcy fell to 15-12, 4-9.

With just over eight minutes left, Jacksonville’s Aaron Smith hit a three-pointer for the 76-46 lead that enacted the high school mercy rule and started the continuously running clock.

Smith finished with 23 points, with five coming on three-pointers.

Joyner had been urging players other than Appleby to get into the shooting rotation, and Smith, along with Justin House, have filled the bill in the Red Devils’ past two games.

House hit a career-high five three-pointers, including the go-ahead shot in overtime, in the West Memphis victory. Brown added 15 points against the Blue Devils.

“We’ve got to keep everybody involved,” Joyner said. “Let them feel comfortable and know they can take the shots when the shots are available.

“And that’s what we’ve got to continue to do if we’re going to have any chance at all.”

Jacksonville (20-3, 10-3) was tied with Little Rock Parkview for first in the 6A-East entering Friday’s regular-season finale with Mountain Home.

Jacksonville split with Parkview in the regular season but held the tiebreaker because it won by 18 and lost by 10.

Yet the best the Red Devils can do is earn the second seed to the 6A state tournament because 7A/6A-Central champion Van Buren moves into the 6A for the postseason.

The Lady Red Devils cut it close but left Tuesday still seeking their first conference victory after Searcy won 63-58.

Jacksonville (6-17, 0-12) tied it at 54 on two fourth-quarter free throws by Jessica Jackson and was within 60-58 when Chyna Davis made a turnaround shot with 33.7 seconds left.

But Searcy clinched it on free throws by Brittnee Broadway and Lindsey Hanshew.

The Lady Lions (14-11, 7-5) advanced to the 6A state tournament last year and entered the night as a solid fifth seed, ahead of Marion and behind Jonesboro in the 6A-East standings.