Saturday, March 03, 2012

SPORTS >> Red Devils fight for 48-34 win

Leader sportswriter

EL DORADO — After taking care of Lake Hamilton with ease in the first round of the 6A state tournament, the Jacksonville Red Devils faced a tougher challenge against Marion. Jacksonville struggled to find its offense early, but the Red Devils pulled away in the second half to get the 48-34 victory Friday in El Dorado and advance to the semi-finals.

At the end of the first quarter, Jacksonville narrowly led 10-9. By the end of the half Jacksonville was able to push its lead to five, leading 23-18.

Jacksonville came out hot after the break, and scored the first five points of the quarter, pushing the lead to 10 with 4:02 left in the third. As the third quarter closed, Jacksonville senior guard DeWayne Waller grabbed an offensive rebound and put-back to give the Red Devils their largest lead of the game at that point, leading by 12.

Marion’s defense was pesky in the first half, and didn’t allow Jacksonville to find its rhythm on offense. Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner had an explanation as to why his team had trouble scoring early.

“In the first half they jumped into a zone and we missed a lot of outside shots,” Joyner said. “I think that was the difference. We didn’t hit our outside shots very well.

“Later on I thought we executed and gutted it out. It was an ugly game because of the way it was called. It makes for ugly games when you call it like that. It wasn’t a fun game to watch and it wasn’t a fun game to coach.”

The Red Devils didn’t have any problems with foul trouble, but they ended the game having shot 33 free throws for 52 percent at the line. Marion got to the line 10 times, shooting 60 percent for the game.

Even though Jacksonville was able to get to the line often, it wasn’t necessarily what Joyner was looking for.

“It was frustrating for the kids because it interrupted the flow of the game,” Joyner said. “But if you can win ugly, you win ugly. We’ll take it. In the state tournament you take it any way you can get it. The game just had no flow to it.

“The officials let them play a little bit more in the third quarter. We had more flow in the third, I thought, and we ended up with more stops on the other end. It was just an ugly, grind- it-out game. This conference is predicated on athleticism, and you can’t use your athleticism in a game like that.”

In the fourth, Jacksonville out-scored Marion 11-9. Senior point guard Crushawn Hayes hit one of two free throws in the final seconds to set the final margin. Both teams were all over the boards through all four quarters, but Jacksonville out-rebounded Marion 27-23. Jacksonville also won the turnover battle, committing 15 while forcing 22 from Marion.

Waller led Jacksonville with 13 points. Justin McCleary finished with 10. Post player Tirrell Brown scored eight, while grabbing six rebounds and blocking two shots. Warren Boyd was the only Patriot to finish in double figures as he scored a game-high 20 points.

Jacksonville will play a familiar foe, Jonesboro, in the semi-finals of the 6A state tournament tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.