Friday, January 13, 2012

SPORTS >> Devils take down No. 1

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils were chastised by their coach for being too passive after their conference opening loss to Little Rock Hall. They were anything but passive in game two of league play, beating previously undefeated Little Rock Parkview 74-63 Tuesday in Little Rock.

Parkview entered the game 13-0, ranked No. 1 overall in the state, as well as sixth in the Southeast and 25th in the nation by ESPN.

The Patriots earned the national recognition by winning the hugely famous and nationwide Whattaburger Classic in Dallas, Texas, over the Christmas break.

Jacksonville apparently didn’t notice. The Red Devils took the floor and went after Parkview, who also beat the Red Devils in last year’s state championship, like a team unrecognizable from the one that played against Hall.

“They dug down and found something inside themselves,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “This was not the same timid team that played last week. They were aggressive and they battled. Things got tight later on. I think we got a little tired. But they dug down and found some inner strength. This was big for us.”

The win was all the more impressive given the fact that Jacksonville’s two leading scorers so far this season, post player Tirrell Brown and guard Justin McCleary, were in foul trouble throughout the game and saw limited playing time. Both ended up fouling out early in the fourth quarter.

James Aikens and Dewayne Waller picked up the scoring slack in the first half. Waller had 10 of his game-high 18 in the first quarter. Aikens scored 11 of his 18 in the second. It was only Aikens’ second game this season, but he played like the seasoned senior he is, hitting three consecutive, progressively longer three pointers in the second quarter to lead the Red Devils to a 40-23 halftime lead.

Aikens was also a major menace to Parkview’s ability to get the ball up the floor. Five of his 11 second-quarter points came on the heels of thievery by Aikens.

Jacksonville led 18-9 at the end of the first quarter and led 23-16 with about six minutes left until halftime. That’s when the run started that put the Red Devils in control of the game.

Aikens hit two consecutive three pointers, then got a steal and reverse layup to quickly make it 31-16 and force a Parkview timeout.

The Patriots began fronting Jacksonville’s post players after the timeout and got two steals off entry passes into the lane, but the Red Devils defense didn’t allow Parkview to get back into the game.

Brown got a dunk after corralling a loose ball under the basket. Aikens then hit a 30-foot shot to make it 36-19. Each team added four more points to set the halftime score.

Jacksonville came out of the half ready for a Parkview run, and never let it happen in the ever-important first few minutes of the third quarter. In fact, Jacksonville’s lead maxed at 57-34 with 1:24 left in the third. But Parkview did finally make a furious rally.

The Patriots scored the final four points of the third quarter, then continued to rally until the margin was down to just eight at 59-51 with 4:44 left in the game.

Parkview sophomore Daryl Macon hit two three pointers. Senior Anton Macon got two layups and a free throw, and Imara Ready got a steal and layup to complete the 17-2 run before Joyner called timeout.

After the break, Jacksonville answered with an 8-1 to take a 68-52 lead with 2:12 left that all but ended the game.

Parkview made another run to get within 70-61, but was too spent from the energy involved in the previous comeback.

“We got tired but I think we got them a little tired too,” Joyner said. “They used up a lot of energy just to get back in it.”

Parkview had three chances to get closer by forcing turnovers before Jacksonville could get across the timeline. But the Devil defense didn’t give up a point after any of the turnovers.

“They were tired turnovers, but they overcame that fatigue on defense and got some stops when they had to,” Joyner said.

Aikens and Waller led Jacksonville (10-4, 1-1) with 18 points apiece. McCleary scored 11 and Brown 10 for the Red Devils. Xavier Huskey led Jacksonville in rebounding with eight and Aikens had five steals.

Beard led all scorers with 21 points. Ready, a senior who is bound for the University of Nebraska, added 14 for the Patriots. Post player Emmanuel Adoyi had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Parkview won the rebounding battle, but just barely. The Patriots had 32 boards while Jacksonville pulled down 31.

Jacksonville hit 22 of 31 free throws, including 11 of 15 in the fourth quarter when Parkview was forced to foul. The Patriots made 13 of 22 attempts.

The stat of the game was three-point shooting. The Red Devils made a remarkable 75 percent from three-point range, hitting six of eight attempts. Parkview made just three of 20 three point shots.

Jacksonville faced Searcy last night at home, and will take on Jonesboro at home on Tuesday.