Monday, January 09, 2012

SPORTS >> Red Devils roughed up by Warrirors

Leader Sportswriter

The Jacksonville Red Devils went into Thursday night’s game against the two-time defending state champion Little Rock Hall Warriors knowing they had to be the aggressor.

Unfortunately for the Red Devils, the Warriors were the more aggressive team from the start, and despite a late Jacksonville run in the third quarter, Hall managed to get the 65-52 win at Little Rock to win the 7A/6A East conference opener.

The Warriors’ basketball program has been beyond stellar over the past four years, winning three of the last four state championships in its class. The year they didn’t win state, they finished as the state’s runner-up in 2009, losing that championship game to Jacksonville.

Hall won the 6A state title the next year, and even though the Warriors moved up a class in 2011 and finished third in conference behind 6A Parkview and Jacksonville, they finished the season by winning the 7A state title.

Regardless of the Warriors’ elite reputation, Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner believes his team is on the same level and should’ve and could’ve played a lot better.

“They just came out and seemed to be more battle tested than we were,” Joyner said about the Warriors. “We didn’t come off of our screens tight. They pushed us away from screens. They were more aggressive than us early. It was obvious because of the point output.”

The Warriors out-rebounded the Red Devils 21-11 and had 12 steals to Jacksonville’s five. Hall was the dominant team early, scoring the first four points of the game with wide-open dunks that were the result of Jacksonville turnovers.

Hall was suddenly up 10-2 early in the first quarter, but Jacksonville regrouped and started to play defense. The Warriors only other point in the quarter came from the free-throw line, but the Red Devils could only manage four more points in the quarter, and Hall led 11-6 at the end of the first.

Hall dominated the second quarter, out-scoring Jacksonville 26-13 to take a 37-19 lead at the half.

“They were just more aggressive. We played timid, at least it looked like that to me,” Joyner said. “I wouldn’t say we were shell shocked, I just believe they were way more aggressive than our kids were.

“Even when we would drive to the bucket with open shots, they would come up and block it, because we weren’t attacking the bucket with any ferocity. We just weren’t aggressive.”

Jacksonville played with more aggression in the third quarter, and went on a 15-6 run to begin the quarter, cutting the Warriors’ to lead to single digits with 2:48 left in the third.

Hall out-scored Jacksonville 6-5 in the final minutes of the quarter to lead 49-39 going into the fourth. In the final quarter, Hall out-scored Jacksonville 16-13 to set the final margin.
Joyner was very disappointed with the team’s effort.

“Since I’ve been at Jacksonville, I’ve never had a team come out and be that passive, ever,” Joyner said. “Hall was just more physical and aggressive than our kids. That’s just the bottom line.”

Hall finished the night leading every statistical category, including free throw percentage. Hall shot 76 percent from the line as opposed to Jacksonville’s 61 percent. Both teams had more than 20 free throw attempts.

Jacksonville junior point guard Justin McCleary led the Red Devils with a game-high 17 points. 13 of those points came in the second half. Senior post player Tirrell Brown finished with 11 points and three blocks.

Senior guard Quan Jones and junior post player Bobby Portis led the Warriors with 15 points.
Jacksonville (10-3, 0-1) will try and earn its first conference win Tuesday, when the Red Devils face another aggressive and physical opponent in Little Rock Parkview.