Friday, December 23, 2011

SPORTS >> Jacksonville outlasts Bryant for first place

Leader sports editor

The hosting Red Devils once again kept the plaque for winning the annual Red Devil Classic at home after beating Little Rock Catholic and Bryant this week. Jacksonville and Bryant met on Wednesday after beating Catholic and North Pulaski respectively Tuesday. The two teams battled evenly for three quarters before the Red Devils broke open a 32-32 tie midway through the fourth quarter to pull away for the win.

“I think we took that team a little bit too lightly,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said of Bryant. “Before the game guys were joking around and you could tell they weren’t really focused. When we were behind at halftime we went to the locker room and got their attention. They realized they were going to have to execute to beat this team.”

Poor shooting was a problem for Jacksonville. The Red Devils made just six of 23 attempts in the first half, with over a third of those attempts coming from the three-point line.

Jacksonville did not attempt a three pointer in the second half, and hit seven of 18 shots.

“I thought we got open looks we just didn’t knock anything down,” Joyner said.

Best epitomizing the shooting woes was the two missed dunks Jacksonville suffered during its 16-5 run over the final four minutes of the game.

All five of Bryant’s points in that span came during a 5-0 run that cut Jacksonville’s lead to 40-37. From that point, the Red Devils scored eight in a row to secure the victory. Bryant’s Jordan Griffin hit a three pointer at the buzzer to set the final margin. Tirrell Brown led Jacksonville with 12 points and eight rebounds.

The day before Jacksonville shot the lights out of the Devils’ Den in routing the Rockets 67-40. The Red Devils’ lead hit the mercy-rule mark of 30 points at 52-22 with 5:40 left in the third quarter.

Jacksonville (8-2) hit 16 of 23 shot attempts in the first half, including six of nine three pointers. Xavier Huskey led all scorers with 13 points.