Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> JHS girls hold off Malvern assault

Leader sports editor

Building a comfortable lead went well for Jacksonville. Maintaining it proved more difficult than expected against Malvern in the opening round of the Arkansas Alumni Classic. The Lady Red Devils got the job done just the same in a 59-47 victory over the Lady Leopards at Cirks Arena on Monday.

The Lady Devils opened their 2012-13 season on a tear, scoring the first eight points on their way to an early 17-5 lead. They were able to sustain that gap for the most part throughout the first half, leading 31-22 at intermission. But Malvern made things interesting to start the second half with a 7-2 run to tie the game at 31, and briefly took a 33-31 lead before Jacksonville got going again.

Senior and University of Arkansas commit Jessica Jackson led the way for the Lady Red Devils with 23 points, but it was her nine second-half rebounds that made the biggest difference for Jacksonville down the stretch. Most of those boards were defensive, denying the Lady Leopards second-chance shots that allowed them to close the gap before Jackson re-entered the game at the 13:56 mark of the second half.

“When you get in foul trouble, you’ve got to play through some adversities,” Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms said. “And that’s what happened. They came out of the dressing room at halftime, got the first shot, scored, we didn’t score. We foul them, they go to the line, then get a rebound off of it, you know, they’re changing the momentum there.

“I sit Jessica out to start so she wouldn’t pick up a cheap one. I thought the third one was a cheap one, but you’ve got to play through those.”

Jackson set the tone for the Lady Devils offensively with a three-point basket in the first minute and another at the 11:39 mark to give Jacksonville a 13-2 lead, but she also picked up two quick fouls in that time. Mimms sat Jackson until just inside six minutes, which allowed the Lady Leopards to close the gap to 21-13, but a Jackson three with 5:37 left to play in the first extended the lead back to double digits at 24-13.

The Lady Red Devils executed defensively for the most part, but allowed Malvern to climb back in the game with a sluggish start to the second half.

“That’s them, and that’s what I’m trying to coach them through,” Mimms said. “Don’t be lax on defense at any time. If you’re in there, you give me 100 percent. If you need to come out, I’ve got players over here that can come in and play through it.”

Markela Bryles backed Jackson’s effort with 10 points, six of which came in the final four minutes when the Lady Leopards were making the strongest push to cut the margin. Antrice McCoy added 8 points for the Lady Red Devils and sophomore point guard Shakyla Hill had six points.

Jackson stayed inside for her second-half scoring after a trio of successful outside looks in the first half, and her contribution on the boards allowed the Lady Red Devils to finally rebuild their lost lead in the final nine minutes of play.

“She’s 6-2, she’s the tallest thing on the floor,” Mimms said. “She’s going to help tremendously on the boards. A double-double, good way to start the season.”

The Lady Red Devils will resume play in the Alumni Classic tourney with their second-round game Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.