Friday, December 23, 2011

SPORTS >> Lady Devils win first Classic in years

Leader sports editor

A long time coming, the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils won their own Red Devil Classic for the first time in 10 years by beating McClellan 56-42 Wednesday at Jacksonville High School.

The Lady Lions made a battle of it, trailing by just two points at halftime, but Jacksonville took control in the third quarter and extended its lead in the fourth to secure the victory.

The Lady Devils went inside in the final period to seal it. Jacksonville scored 13 of its 15 fourth-quarter points in the lane or on free throws by post players. Six-foot senior Nichole Bennett scored all six of her points in the fourth quarter while fellow post player Coyja Hood added five of her seven total in the final frame.

Junior Jessica Jackson had her best game of the season, scoring a game-high 25 points.

“I think this was really the first game where we shot the ball like I think we’re capable of shooting it,” Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms said. “Especially for Jessica. This was the first game that she’s really shot the ball well.”

Jackson didn’t start the game shooting well but got hot and stayed that way, especially in the second and third quarters.

McClellan jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the first five minutes of the game. Jackson missed five of her first six shot attempts in the first quarter, but the Lady Devils made a run at the end of the frame to claim the lead.

Freshmen point guard Shakyla Hill sparked the run with a steal and a layup. Hill got another bucket and a free throw while Jackson added a bucket and four foul shots. By quarter’s end, Jacksonville led 15-11.

Jackson made six of her next nine shots in the second and third quarters, and was fouled on two of the shots she missed. She finished the game hitting eight of 19 attempts, but was seven of 14 after the slow start. She also hit seven of eight free-throw attempts in the game.

McClellan got right back in the game midway through the second quarter, a quarter that featured six lead changes and four ties. Jacksonville led 23-19 when McClellan guard Kiemah Cummings posted seven straight points to put the Lady Lions up 26-23. Jacksonville closed the frame with the final five points to take a 28-26 lead into halftime.

For all the good shooting, it was Jacksonville’s defense in the third quarter that made the difference in the game.

The Lady Devils held McClellan without a basket until the 2:12 mark of the third. Taylor Collins’ shot made it 39-30, but the Lady Lions never got within seven the rest of the game.

The key moment of the fourth quarter came at the midway point. A Cummings three pointer pulled McClellan to within 45-38, and Jacksonville turned it over on its next possession. The Lady Lions worked the ball around and found a wide open shot from about 10 feet, but missed it and failed to get back on defense.

Hood got the bucket on the run out at the other end to again make it a nine-point game.

“There were times when we had lapses in our execution, but we settled down and got back to it instead of pressing to try to make up for it,” Mimms said. “We made plays when we had to.”

Cummings led McClellan with 13 points. Jack-son was the only Lady Devil in double figures, but Hill posted a complete performance, finishing with nine points, 10 rebounds, five steals and four assists.

Jacksonville (7-1) also hit 15 of 17 free-throw attempts.

The Lady Red Devils are off until Jan. 5 when they begin 6A East conference play on the road against Little Rock Hall.