Friday, January 20, 2012

SPORTS >> Devils rough up Hurricane

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils save their best for the big boys. A week after beating the state’s top-ranked team on the road, Jacksonville mauled No. 2 Jonesboro 68-41 at home Tuesday. The week before, Jacksonville built a 23-point lead before then top-ranked Parkview made a strong comeback that ultimately fell short. On Tuesday, 23 points was but a brief margin as the Red Devils demolished the second-ranked Hurricane.

Jacksonville’s lead was 35 going into the fourth quarter, and grew to as much as 38 before Jonesboro got hot from outside during a ragged fourth-quarter of play that set the final margin.

The Red Devils went to a four-guard lineup to combat Jonesboro’s extreme quickness and guard-oriented offense. The game plan worked to perfection. The one post player who started, senior Tirrell Brown, finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds despite only playing about one half of basketball.

“We knew number 30 was their only big rebounding guy so I just tried to make sure I got a body on him and boxed him out,” Brown said.

Brown’s 13 boards led the way for Jacksonville’s utter domination in that category.

The Red Devils won the rebounding battle 46-12, and held a 31-5 advantage at halftime.

“That’s good to know,” Jonesboro coach Wes Swift said. “They (Swift’s players) think this (the game) was bad, wait until practice tomorrow. 46-12, that’s just effort.”

The game started out at a high tempo, but both teams struggled from the floor. Jonesboro was able to get into the lane, but was finding junior Keith Charleston in the way once there. Charleston blocked four shots in the first quarter, one early in the second and no more the rest of the game.

“They stopped taking it inside,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “Keith was part of that because he was so disruptive once they got in there. We also started switching off their screens and they weren’t able to come around the screens and go anywhere. That’s an adjustment we made at halftime and the kids went out and executed it perfectly.”

The Red Devils’ lead was only 12-6 at the end of the first quarter, and that was cut to four before the second quarter began. Jonesboro hit two free throws before the start of the second quarter because of an error in Jacksonville’s submitted lineup. It turned out to be the Hurricane’s highlight of the quarter.

Jacksonville began making shots after hitting just five of 18 attempts in the first quarter. Defensively the Red Devils didn’t let up at all.

Through the second and third quarters, Jonesboro managed just two field goals, one in each quarter.

Jacksonville began lighting it up. And when the Red Devils missed, they usually got offensive rebounds and putback buckets.

Senior guard Dewayne Waller hit four of four shot attempts in the quarter. Senior Dustin House nailed Jacksonville’s only three pointer of the game and also hit a reverse, over-the-head backwards shot from underneath the backboard, an improbable make and an indicator of how the game would play out from that point forward.

Everything went Jacksonville’s way, but it wasn’t because of good fortune.

“We started working on a four-guard game plan a couple of weeks ago because of Jonesboro,” Joyner said. “The kids went out executed it to perfection. This was all just execution on their part. These kids did a fantastic job.”

The Red Devils turned their 12-8 lead at the start of the quarter into a 38-15 advantage at halftime. Things just continued to get worse for Jonesboro in the second half.

Junior Justin McCleary began to heat up from outside, hitting all three of his shot attempts and adding a free throw for good measure after being fouled. Post player Brandon Brockman missed, but was fouled, on both of his shot attempts, and sank all four free throws.

Jacksonville did turn it over seven times in the third quarter after giving it away just once the entire first half, but Jonesboro wasn’t able to capitalize.

By the end of the third quarter, Jacksonville’s lead had grown to 56-21 and the continuous clock ran throughout the fourth quarter.

Jonesboro’s overall shooting statistics were terrible, even though the Hurricane made eight of 11 shot attempts in the fourth quarter, and was four of six from the three-point line.

For the game, Jonesboro (15-2, 3-1) made 13 of 55 shot attempts and went four of 19 from beyond the arc. The visitors did enjoy a modicum of success at the free-throw line, where they hit 11 of 15 attempts.

Jacksonville (12-3, 3-1) was 26 of 61 from the field and one of six from three-point range. The Red Devils made 15 of 22 free-throw attempts.

Waller led all scorers with 14 points while McCleary added 11 for the Red Devils.

Charleston finished with eight points, five rebounds, five blocks, two steals and two assists.