Saturday, November 17, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Red Devils ease past Tigers

Leader sports editor

A bit of patience may have made things easier, but the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils still got the job done Thursday in the third-place game of the Little Rock Invitational at Hall High School. Jacksonville beat Little Rock Central 51-47 in overtime to improve to 2-1 after beating Bauxite and losing to Hall earlier in the week.

Central’s ball pressure, led by athletic defender Jamie Ruffin who was tasked with guarding Jacksonville point guard Shakyla Hill, kept the Lady Red Devils from getting into their sets on offense. When they did break the pressure, they hurried shots for much of the game.

“We have to be more patient on offense when we get in a halfcourt situation,” Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms said. “Central did a good job on defense and really disrupted what we were trying to do. But we still had some opportunities we didn’t take advantage of. We rushed a lot of shots and didn’t wait for something to open up.”

The tournament format may have also played a role in Jacksonville’s hurriedness. The tournament was played with a college-like clock. There were two 16-minute halves instead of four quarters, and there was a 30-second shot clock that Jacksonville ran down to zero on its first possession without taking a shot.

That was never a factor the rest of the way.

Late in the second half with Jacksonville leading 40-39, the Lady Tigers began to double team Jacksonville’s Jessica Jackson, even away from the ball, denying her any touches. Post player Markela Bryles picked up the slack for the Lady Devils. Bryles made two free throws to make it 42-39 with 2:30 remaining. Central’s Taylor Lewis nailed a three pointer to tie the game 30 seconds later. After two turnovers by each team, Lewis hit another three, this one from about 25 feet to give the Lady Tigers a 45-42 lead with 42 seconds left in regulation.

Bryles was fouled at the other end and hit one of two free throws, then Jacksonville caught a huge break. An official collided with Ruffin as she dribbled away from Jacksonville’s full-court pressure. Ruffin fell and the referee called her for traveling with 30 seconds remaining. Ten seconds later, Bryles hit a shot from the lane to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Bryles’ five points to end regulation started an 11-3 run by Jacksonville that Jackson finished in overtime. The senior Razorback-commit scored all six points for the Lady Red Devils in overtime. She gave Jacksonville a 51-45 lead with 1:20 left with a steal and a layup. Ruffin added two free throws with 30 seconds left in overtime but the Lady Tigers got no closer.

“Central’s an improved team and they’re very athletic,” Mimms said. “I hope we can learn from games like this. Teams are going to do what they did and try to keep Jessica away from the ball all season long. It was big to have a player like Markela step up like she did. She hadn’t been making free throws like she did tonight. If some more people can be a threat to score like that it will take a lot of pressure off Jessica and open things up for everybody.”

Despite the constant double team, Jackson led all scorers with 17 points. Bryles finished with 15, including nine free throws in 10 attempts. Bryles also made it a double-double by recording 11 rebounds. Jackson had nine. Lewis led Central with 15 points while Ruffin added 12. On the negative side, Jacksonville was 0 for 10 from three-point range and committed 29 turnovers.

The Lady Red Devils are back in action on Nov. 27 when they travel to North Little Rock to take on the Charging Lady Wildcats.