Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SPORTS >> Devils cruise in opener

Leader sports editor

EL DORADO — It’s a well-known fact around central Arkansas basketball circles that Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner worries about every game his team plays. Playoff games only intensify the head Red Devils’ stress. But there was never any need for worry about Jacksonville’s first-round playoff game Tuesday at El Dorado High School. The Red Devils quickly and easily dispatched Lake Hamilton 80-34 to advance to the quarterfinal round.

It took just a little while for the Red Devils to get things into high gear. The Wolves hung close for a little more than half the first quarter, mostly because of silly mistakes and missed shots on easy attempts by Jacksonville.

“That’s just because it’s the first game,” Joyner said. “Nobody has really come out right off the tip and just hit lights out. Once they played and got in the game for a couple of minutes, they relaxed and then started executing really well. Everybody played pretty well tonight.”

Once the East No. 2 seed found its rhythm, it was all over but the crying for Lake Hamilton, which simply had no answer for Jacksonville’s size, depth or quickness. Jacksonville used its entire bench by the end of the third quarter and 13 different Red Devils scored. Getting young players on the floor is always a goal for coaches in the early rounds of the state tournament.

“You want to get that first one out of the way because the first one is always the toughest,” Joyner said. “Ask any coach here. They’ll tell you. You never know how kids are going to react. It’s a long trip down here, a new environment and everything is magnified because now if you lose, you’re done. Coming out and playing like we did and getting everyone involved was nice to see.”

Jacksonville (24-4) led just 9-4 when Joyner went with five new players halfway through the first quarter. The second five outscored the Wolves 11-5 to take a 20-9 lead into the second period.

Eight different Red Devils got on the scoreboard in the second quarter, but it was the inside duo of seniors Tirrell Brown and Xavier Huskey that really pushed Jacksonville out in front. Brown and Huskey combined for 10 points and six rebounds in the quarter.

Dustin House and Dwayne Waller each hit three pointers and senior James Aikens got three steals as the Red Devils built a 46-19 lead by halftime.

The worst was yet to come for Lake Hamilton. Senior guard Crushawn Hayes began to find his range from outside while Brown and Huskey continued to dominate inside. Jacksonville also out-rebounded the Wolves 20-2 in the quarter as it pushed its lead to 68-24 by the start of the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville hit 23 of 54 two-point shot attempts and seven of 21 from three-point range. The Red Devils were 11 of 17 from the free-throw line.

Lake Hamilton was nine of 32 from inside the arc and two of 13 from outside. The Wolves hit 10 of 16 at the line. Dillon Jessup led the Wolves with 10 points, nine coming in the fourth quarter.

The clock ran continuously in the fourth quarter because of the sportsmanship rule that dictates a 30-point lead or more will enact a non-stop clock in the last eight minutes of the game.

Brown, Waller and Hayes each scored 12 points to lead the Red Devils in scoring. Huskey added 10 points. Brown and Huskey each had eight rebounds, as did post player Brandon Brockman.

Jacksonville also had 20 assists, with Aikens and Justin McCleary leading the way in that category with five each. Jacksonville won the rebounding battle 51-16.

The Red Devils will play its quarterfinal matchup at 2:30 p.m. Friday against tonight’s winner of Benton against Marion.