Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SPORTS >> Appleby hurt, but hits court

Leader sportswriter

HOT SPRINGS — Raheem Appleby’s performance in the 6A state championship game will be remembered not for his game-high 19 points but rather for the grit the 6-3 senior shooting guard showed just being on the court.

Little Rock Parkview overtook Jacksonville at the end of the third quarter and held on for a 50-44 victory at Summit Arena on Saturday.

Appleby injured his ankle early in Jacksonville’s semifinal victory over Jonesboro at Marion the previous weekend, and wore a boot on his foot until Wednesday’s practice.

Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner predicted his star player would be at about 70 percent around game time, and his prognosis seemed correct as Appleby, though still quick, was not up to full speed against the Patriots.

The injury also impacted Appleby’s ability to shoot from the outside and make slashing drives into the lane.

After the game Appleby credited Red Devils athletic trainer Jason Cates for helping him recover enough to start against Parkview.

“It’s alright,” Appleby said. “It’s good. My trainer took care of it. It slowed me down just a little bit.”

Appleby went 6 of 19 against Parkview and was 1 of 7 from three-point range. He made 6 of 7 free throws and had two rebounds — one offensive and one defensive — and an assist. The numbers were in line with his average 19.7 points, two assists and 1.2 rebounds a game.

“He’s a great player,” Parkview coach Al Flanigan said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for that young man.”

Appleby’s leadership on this year’s team has been invaluable.

After the departure of Deshone McClure at the end of last season, many around the state wrote the Red Devils off as too inexperienced and lacking a take-charge player. Jacksonville appeared low on most preseason polls, with some prognosticators picking the Red Devils to finish seventh in the tough 6A-East.

But Appleby stepped up and filled the void left by McClure and helped carry his team to a share of the conference championship and back to the state final after the Red Devils won the championship in 2009.

Joyner, though disappointed in Saturday’s loss, was still full of praise for his team and his senior leader.

“Raheem’s not going to tell you the whole truth,” Joyner said. “He’s a humble kid like that. He didn’t have the lift on his shot that he normally would. We tried to keep him stretched out during the game. He had a phenomenal year.”

And a career.

Appleby was the only holdover from the team that beat Little Rock Hall for the 6A championship two years ago.

His role was significantly smaller as a sophomore on a senior-dominated team, but Appleby did see minutes in that game, and contributed with a three-pointer late in the first half.

One of Appleby’s most memorable moments as a Red Devil was when he made a three-pointer at the buzzer against West Memphis in the final 6A-East game of the 2009-10 season.