Tuesday, March 06, 2012

SPORTS >> Hurricanes stun Devils

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville started strong in the semifinals of the 6A state tournament against Jonesboro, but the Hurricanes slowly played its way back into the game and dominated the fourth quarter to beat Jacksonville 63-42 Saturday at Wildcat Arena in El Dorado.

The Red Devils were up 13-4 at the end of one quarter of play. Jonesboro scored the first seven points of the second quarter, but at the break Jacksonville was up five. Jonesboro started the second half with a 5-0 run that tied the score at 21.

After a quick timeout, Jacksonville went on a run of its own, scoring the next 11 points to take a double-digit lead. The Hurricanes kept playing, and at the end of the quarter, Jonesboro post player Rodrick Pugh stole the ball at half court and laid in an easy bucket to tie the score at 34 going into the fourth.

“We tied it right out of there, and then the next thing I know we’re down six or seven, and then it got up to 11,” said Jonesboro coach Wes Swift about Jacksonville’s run in the third quarter. “At that point we needed to make some shots. Our shots weren’t on the mark, and we were missing some one-and-ones, and that’s just uncharacteristic of our basketball team. I think it’s just nerves.”

Jonesboro played its best when it mattered most. Senior guard Jacob Gibson, one of the best shooters in the state, sparked Jonesboro’s furious fourth quarter run with two straight three-pointers out of the gate to give the Hurricane its first lead of the game.

After that it was all Jonesboro as the Hurricane outscored the Red Devils 29-8 in the final quarter to earn the decisive win, and a trip to the state finals.

“We were playing hard but making mistakes on both ends, and that’s just playing too fast, and the guys just needed to settle down,” Swift said. “There was nothing any of the coaches could say. They just needed to see some shots go down, and once the shots went down, they settled down and started playing.”

Jacksonville dominated the boards, out-rebounding Jonesboro 27-15, but the Hurricane won the turnover battle by a better margin. Jonesboro had 12 turnovers for the game, and only four in the second half. Jacksonville finished with 28, 17 of which came in the second half.

“A lot of it was our guard play,” said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner about the turnovers in the second half. “If my guards hold up then we’re ok. We were breaking their press easily the first time.

“They didn’t change the press. We didn’t change the way we attacked it. They just changed the way they made their decisions, and that’s just the bottom line. They stopped doing what we practiced on, and started throwing it away. That was the difference.”

This is the first time Jonesboro has beaten Jacksonville in three years, going 0-4 against the Red Devils last year, and 0-2 in the regular season this year. Along with excellent defensive play, the Hurricane pulled off the upset with terrific three point shooting, hitting 50 percent of their shots from the perimeter. Jacksonville hit just two threes in the game for 33 percent.

The Red Devils shot exceptional from the line, hitting 90 percent of their free throws while Jonesboro made 78 percent of its free throws.

Senior guard DeWayne Waller was the only Jacksonville player to finish in double figures. Kahron Ross scored a game-high 16 points for the Hurricane. Jayln McBride and Gibson scored 15 points apiece for Jonesboro, who plays Parkview at 3:30 p.m. Friday.