Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SPORTS >> Jacksonville defense embarrasses Patriots

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils and Lady Devils picked up a pair of important wins at Marion on Friday. The second-ranked Lady Red Devils did what it was supposed to against the next-to-last team in the league, taking control early and winning easily 61-36.

The top-ranked Red Devils were expected to win, but maybe not as easily as it did. The Jacksonville boys invoked the sportsmanship rule over the Patriots after three quarters and won 68-36. The Red Devils had a much more competitive game against Marion at home in late January, winning that game 74-58.

“Marion’s a pretty decent team,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “They did a few things that gave us a little trouble last time. Honestly I was surprised with how well we came out and dominated that game. That’s the kind of effort you look for every night.”

Jacksonville’s lead was just five after the first quarter, but grew to 35-22 by halftime. The third quarter was the difference. The Red Devils outscored Marion 28-10, including 16 in a row at one point, to take a 63-32 lead into the final frame.

“We really came out and amped it up defensively to stop their penetration,” Joyner said. “You could hear their coach at halftime screaming at them to ‘drive the ball, drive the ball’. We had worked on that for a couple of days, cutting off their angles and taking charges. We really came out in the third quarter and executed that really well. It really discouraged them from wanting to drive it in there.”

A trio of seniors led Jacksonville in scoring. Dwayne Waller and Tirrell Brown scored 12 points each while James Aikens added 10.

Jacksonville can’t catch Russellville in the 6A power ratings and will have to settle for the No. 2 seed in the state tournament, regardless of how its last game against West Memphis turns out.

“That’s a flawed system because Russellville hasn’t played one team in our conference,” Joyner said. “We’ve played this grueling schedule and we just have to yield No. 1 to them. But you’re going to have to play somebody good to get there anyway and you need to be hitting on all cylinders no matter who you play. So that’s what we’ll be trying to do.”

The Lady Devils still have an outside shot at catching the Lady Cyclones and getting the No. 2 seed. That hope was kept alive with the big win on Friday.

The Jacksonville ladies held a 37-17 lead at halftime but slumped out of intermission. Marion didn’t make a big dent in Jacksonville’s lead, but did get within 46-31 by the start of the fourth quarter.

The Lady Devils refocused defensively and held the Lady Patriots to just five points in the fourth quarter.

“There’s just in-between with this team,” Lady Devil coach Katrina Mimms said. “You either tell them to go all out or walk it up. They can’t find that happy medium. I didn’t want to slow the game down that much, so in the fourth quarter I just told them to go. Other than the third quarter when we tried some things we don’t normally do, the execution was really good. We applied good pressure on defense and we worked the ball inside on offense.”

Junior guard Jessica Jackson led all scorers with 18 points. Freshman point guard Shakayla Hill added 17 while senior post player Nichole Bennett scored 12.

Parkview is undefeated and will be No. 1. Russellville currently holds 127-104 advantage of Jacksonville in the girls power ratings points system. If Russellville loses both of its last two games against Conway and Cabot, it will earn only four points, two for each 7A team. Jacksonville can earn up to 18 points for a win over West Memphis and 10 points for a win over Mountain Home. If all that plays out, Jacksonville would finish with a 132-131 edge and get the two seed.