Tuesday, December 18, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Turnovers hurt Devils again

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville did its best to make a late run against longtime rival Jonesboro, but it wasn’t enough as the Golden Hurricane beat the Red Devils 63-58 on Saturday in the Arkansas Hoops Challenge at Maumelle High School.

It was another close game between the two respective schools. Jacksonville and Jonesboro have had their share of battles over the years as members of the 6A East Conference. Jacksonville swept Jonesboro in the regular season last year before falling hard to the Golden Hurricane in the class 6A semifinal.

This season the Red Devils moved to class 5A, but Saturday’s game felt like the same old rivalry. Jacksonville scored the first four points of the game, and carried that early momentum to a 16-11 lead midway through the first half. It would be the Red Devils’ largest lead of the night.

Jonesboro battled back to take a one-point lead on a three pointer by Randle Toliver at the 5:21 mark. It was Toliver’s third three of the game. From there, the ‘Canes went on a 13-3 run to grab an 11-point lead with 1:27 remaining in the opening half.

Jacksonville scored the last four points of the half on baskets by Keith Charleston and Justin McCleary. McCleary’s basket came on a driving layup on the Red Devils’ final possession to cut Jonesboro’s lead to 36-29 at the break.

Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner was less than pleased with his team’s defensive play throughout the first 16 minutes.

“It was like they were shell-shocked,” Joyner said. “There are times you’re at the high school level that a kid will make one pass to a kid that didn’t come off a screen or nothing. And you’re standing off of him 5-feet, and you just let him shoot a shot? They weren’t defending.

“A lot of them were uncontested. They weren’t setting screens. We just didn’t get back and defend anybody. In the second half we started defending a little bit better, but then we didn’t execute in a half-court set. We have some things we need to do to get better.”

Jonesboro (7-2) pushed its lead back to double digits with a 6-2 run to open the second half. Jacksonville (5-3) responded with a 6-0 run of its own to cut the deficit to five at the 9:36 mark.

The Red Devils stayed within striking distance the rest of the way, but the ‘Canes had an answer for every Jacksonville basket.

McCleary scored six points in the final 2:00 for Jacksonville, including a three pointer that cut the deficit to four with 32 seconds to play. The Red Devils were forced to foul and after a pair of Jonesboro free throws, Kevin Richardson scored on a driving layup with 10 seconds to make the score 62-58.

Jacksonville was unable to steal the ball on the inbound pass, and with 8 seconds remaining, Jonesboro’s Tony White made one of two free throws to set the final score.

“We’ve got to defend and share the ball better,” Joyner said. “We have too many guys forcing the ball. Share the ball. We had too many unforced turnovers. The same thing has been going on for the last four or five games. We’re seven, eight games in, and we’re still having the same turnovers.

“I don’t know if it’s selfishness, people not wanting to share the ball. I don’t know what it is, but it’s going to get fixed quick. Monday it’s going to get fixed.”

McCleary led all scorers with 19 points. Aaron Smith scored all 10 of his points in the second half. Khaleel Hart had nine, and Sergio Berkley added eight. Toliver led Jonesboro with 15 points. Jacksonville plays Friday against Oklahoma City’s Putnam City West in the Hardwood Showcase at the Devil’s Den.