Monday, December 10, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville figures out Goblin zone

Leader Sportswriter

Harrison stuck around long enough to keep Jacksonville honest as the Red Devils worked through some second-half jitters on their way to a 50-37 victory over the Goblins in the first round of the John Stanton/Wampus Cat Invitational basketball tournament at Buzz Bolding Arena on Thursday.

The bracket for the annual tournament was set up for the usual eight teams, but two schools backed out prior to the start of the tournament. That set up a situation where the host Wampus Cats and Red Devils each received first-round byes in the winners’ bracket, but played in the consolation bracket against the two losing teams from Monday and Tuesday. Harrison lost its first-round game to Pine Bluff on Tuesday to set up the game with Jacksonville, while Conway took on North Pulaski, a first-round loser to Bryant, in the Thursday late game.

Senior point guard Justin McCleary led the Red Devils (2-1) with 13 points, along with five rebounds, two assists and a steal. Senior guard Aaron Smith added 12 points while post player Keith Charleston led the way on the boards with 10 rebounds, eight of which were defensive. Charleston also had seven points, as did junior Sergio Berkley.

The Goblins fell behind 26-11 late in the first half before mounting a 7-2 run in the final 1:19 leading up to halftime, and slowed Jacksonville down just enough in the second half with their zone defense to keep the scoring low.

“I thought the 1-2-2 kind of spread it out,” Red Devils coach Victor Joyner said. “We weren’t hitting anything in the middle. We weren’t attacking off the dribble, and that’s what we started doing a little bit more in the third quarter. I promise the next time someone plays us in a zone like that, we will be getting in gaps.”

McCleary got active on the boards early in the second half once the Goblins started isolating Charleston in the paint. He pulled down a defensive rebound and took it all the way for a basket with 6:21 remaining in the third quarter to give Jacksonville its largest lead of the second half at 35-20.

“He just kind of runs us,” Joyner said of McCleary. “He wasn’t in a lot of scoring opportunities, but he facilitated us tonight, and that’s what a good point guard does, he tries to give you what you need at that time. He needed to distribute the ball tonight, and that’s what he did.”

McCleary gave the Red Devils an early 2-0 lead when he scored on a layup off a steal while Charleston got busy on the defensive end with a block and rebound that set up Khaleel Hart for a basket at the 6:40 mark of the first quarter to put Jacksonville up 4-0.

Sergio Berkley extended the lead to 7-0 with a three-point basket with 6:12 remaining in the opening period, an inside shot by Hart off a dish from Charleston gave Jacksonville a 9-0 lead with 5:28 left to play in the first.

Harrison finally got points on the board when post player Jackson Doshier hit two free throws, but Charleston came right back with an inside basket, followed by a three pointer by McCleary that made it 14-2 with 1:45 remaining in the first quarter.

For Harrison, Alex Rose led with 14 points while Doshier added 12 points.

Jacksonville played Bryant in the winners’ bracket semifinals last night after Leader deadlines.