Tuesday, December 13, 2011

SPORTS >> Devils take third at Conway

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils are finished with their early-season experimenting. Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner was trying to utilize some players in different positions to an attempt to add diversity to an already talented lineup in preparation of the grueling 6A East conference schedule. After losing for the second time this season on Friday the experiment is over.

Jacksonville (6-2) bounced back from that loss to Fayetteville in the semifinal round of the Wampus Cat Invitational in Conway by beating the host team 56-48 on Saturday to take third place. With a home game against North Pulaski, a showcase at Hall and the Red Devil Classic left before conference play begins, the Red Devils will go back to putting players where they are more naturally suited.

“Now that we’ve seen the teams in the league and everybody running the speed press, we’re going back to letting the guards handle the ball,” Joyner said.

Joyner has experimented with letting some of his natural post players move out to play a guard position.

“That’s all it was,” Joyner said after the tournament. “Mainly we were trying to get a couple of post players to learn the three for the games against teams with big guards. It’s just not panning out so we’re going to go back to how we’ve been doing it, putting the ball in the hands of the guys that are used to handling it.”

Jacksonville led Fayetteville 35-28 with four minutes left in the third quarter last Friday and appeared to be in control of the game. The Bulldogs, who had a size advantage over the Red Devils, who usually enjoy that advantage, began pressuring. Jacksonville did not respond well to the pressure and did not score again until it trailed 40-35 with five minutes left in the game.

As time wound down, Jacksonville began fouling and was able to force overtime.

Fayetteville helped out by missing the front end of three-straight one-and-one free-throw attempts. Jacksonville made them pay by hitting two big three pointers that erased a six-point deficit.

In overtime, it was rebounding that led Fayetteville to victory. The Bulldogs dominated on the boards the entire fourth quarter and overtime, but it was the last one that sealed it.

The Bulldogs missed two free throws with the game tied and seconds remaining, but 6 feet, 9 inch Malik Fields, who finished with 21 points and 19 rebounds, got the rebound and putback with .5 seconds on the clock.

“We had a game plan that made us able to move at least one of their big men out of the paint so we could get some rebounds,” Joyner said. “When we got down we got a little desperate and couldn’t run the plays we were running to get those big boys out of there.”

Conway tried to pressure Jacksonville as well, but the Devils handled it much better than it did in its two losses.

“In the Conway game we didn’t have the turnovers because we had guys handling the ball that were used to handling it,” Joyner said.