Tuesday, November 08, 2011

SPORTS >> Jamboree pairs Devils, Falcons

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville and North Pulaski met for the first time this basketball season on Saturday in the Jacksonville Jamboree. The preseason exhibition included several teams from all over the state, with each team playing four total quarters against two other teams.

The Red Devils and Falcons closed the event against each other, and each took the floor against Conway.

Although just an exhibition, Jacksonville flexed its muscle as one of the better teams in the state. North Pulaski, taking the floor for the first time under new coach Roy Jackson, showed that replacing nearly all of its varsity roster means it will need time to grow under the new system and with each other. Timing is something the team has.

“It’s just going to take time,” Jackson said. “I thought our kids played really hard. They did some things well. We just have a lot of inexperience. We’re going to have some rough spots here and there, but getting it together by conference time is our goal. The kids are working hard so I think we’re going to get there.”

North Pulaski is also small, and Conway took advantage of that, out-rebounding the Falcons 15-8 in route to a 44-20 final after two quarters of play.

Conway caught fire from outside and stayed hot throughout its two quarters against the Falcons. The Wampus Cats hit eight three pointers. They only scored four two-point field goals, with the other 12 points coming at the free-throw line.

North Pulaski wasn’t poor from the floor, its main problem was getting shots off. The Falcons hit eight of 18 attempts. Three were three pointers. Conway hit 12 of 30 from the field.

The Falcons took a break and Jacksonville went against the Wampus Cats. The two teams went toe-to-toe through the first quarter. Conway was still better at rebounding, but Jacksonville was able to get to the rim for some easy buckets. The Red Devils hit eight of 11 shots in the first quarter, but because of Conway’s second-chance buckets, the game was still close, 20-19, at the end of one quarter. Conway hit just six of 18 from the floor, but out-rebounded the Red Devils 9-3 in the first quarter.

“We didn’t do a good job of boxing out,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “That’s going to hurt us bad when we get in there against a team that’s shooting a high percentage. We’re going to be working on that.”

The game took on a whole new look in the second quarter. Jacksonville buckled down defensively and held Conway scoreless for nearly six minutes. The Wampus Cats first bucket came at the 2:23 mark. It was also an offensive putback of a missed free throw, but by then, Jacksonville held a comfortable 32-19 lead.

After scoring no points for 5:37, Conway closed with 11 in the final 2:23, but Jacksonville still prevailed 37-30.

Jacksonville was just too much for North Pulaski. The Red Devils ran out to a 20-4 lead in the first quarter and went on to win 38-13.

“Overall I thought my guys played hard and kept the intensity level up,” Joyner said. “We didn’t do many different things offensively. We didn’t see any zone defense. But I thought our execution was pretty good with the offense we did run.”

With several returning starters from last season, Joyner gave reserves most of the playing time. There were a few that played well enough to earn Joyner’s praise.

“Joe Akins really showed a lot of poise for a sophomore,” Joyner said. “He made some nice moves and got some good shots. De’ Shjon Penn raised his stock getting in there and crashing the boards for us. Crashawn Hayes did too. Those two came in and gave us a lift in rebounding because we were not boxing out like we were supposed to.” Dewayne Waller led Jacksonville in scoring with 14 points.