Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SPORTS >> Red Devils grind out victory

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville used its depth and athleticism to lead most of the way during the 6A-East Conference matchup, but Marion used its hard-nosed work ethic to make things downright messy for the Red Devils as they ground their way to a 74-58 victory over the Patriots at the Devils Den on Friday.

The Patriots matched the Red Devils nearly shot for shot in the first quarter before Jacksonville (14-3, 4-1) separated itself slightly with a strong second quarter to lead 38-27 at the break. Marion (8-8, 1-4) let the margin slip further in the third quarter, but bogged the Red Devils down in the fourth quarter with a slower tempo and physical play inside that forced Jacksonville to maintain its advantage at the foul line.

“It’s difficult to play them,” Red Devils coach Victor Joyner said. “Man, they’re so scrappy. And they play hard. Nobody’s just dominated them all year, I mean, they’ve been in every game. They forced 19 turnovers on us and weren’t even pressing.

“They’re just in your face playing solid man to man. What’s that, a 16-point win? I’ll take that any day of the week – this is conference.”

Marion’s Warren Boyd gave the Red Devils fits with his repeated inside drives that led to a game-high 23 points for the 6-2 forward. Given Boyd’s performance, the last 3:27 of the third quarter proved to be the biggest difference for Jacksonville as they ended the period on a 16-2 run in Boyd’s absence after Marion had cut the lead to 40-32.

“He’s a man,” Joyner said of Boyd. “It’s like I told the kids at halftime. That dude played mostly every minute of that game, and was knifing through them like they weren’t there. That was a man out there – he’s got a big heart, played tough. I don’t know how many he had out there, but it felt like 50.”

Jacksonville had two players finish in double figures as senior post player Tirrell Brown finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds while point guard Justin McCleary added 11 points. Keith Charleston and Xavier Husky both scored nine points for the Red Devils while Aaron Smith and Dewayne Waller both added eight points.

Waller gave an indication of things to come in the middle of the third quarter when he went 4 for 4 on two straight trips to the free-throw line to give the Red Devils a 44-32 lead with 2:42 left to play in the period. Waller then got a steal and dished to McCleary for an easy lay up, and Smith made it 48-32 with an inside shot at the 1:32 mark.

Husky scored on a putback before Boyd reentered for the Patriots and broke their scoring drought with another inside driver that made it 50-34. Charleston answered right back for the Red Devils while Husky scored again in the final 15 seconds, but Boyd got the final word for the Patriots with an inside shot that made it 54-36.

Jacksonville maintained that margin for the most part in the fourth quarter despite a combined 16 trips to the foul line for both teams.

“When you play a team that scraps and plays as hard as they do, it’s going to make it an ugly game,” Joyner said. “They challenge every shot, every little thing. It’s a 16-point win, that’s the main thing. The kids adjusted to the way they played when they had to make the big plays regardless.

“I told my kids at halftime that it was going to be a backyard fight, because that’s what was going on. There was a lot of pushing and a lot of grabbing, so y’all need to push and y’all need to grab too.”