Saturday, January 05, 2013

SPORT STORY >> Devils stick with game plan, win

Leader sports editor

A close, hard-fought battle for two and a half quarters was suddenly a blowout as Jacksonville (8-3, 1-0) pulled away to beat Mills 66-42 at JHS on Friday in the 5A Central Conference opener. Jacksonville led 39-38 with two minutes left in the third quarter, but dominated every facet of the game from that point.

The Red Devils stashed away their usual man defense, electing to go with a 1-3-1 zone against the Comets for the entire game. It finally began to pay off in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner had a simple explanation for going with the zone.

“They’re too quick,” Joyner said. “We can’t keep them in front of us in man. They can get to the basket on anybody, so we went zone with help if they got penetration.”

Despite the fact that Mills (6-6, 0-1) kept it close for so long, Joyner credits sticking with the zone and his players’ execution for turning it into a blowout in the fourth quarter.

“Just stick to the game plan,” Joyner said. “The kids stayed with it. We didn’t execute it as well as we could have early on. But the kids stuck with it and started executing.”

Mills coach Raymond Cooper was upset with his team for what he thought was a lack of poise when things began to Jacksonville’s way.

“We became paralyzed,” Cooper said. “We did not do anything we worked on for a 1-3-1.”

Cooper didn’t necessarily expect Jacksonville to come out in a zone defense, but said his team has seen the 1-3-1 twice this year, and has a plan of attack for it.

“We’ve played Hall twice and they run that 1-3-1,” Cooper said. “We have three ways to attack it that we’ve worked on a lot this year. We just didn’t execute anything. We didn’t run the offense, didn’t move the ball. We stood around and took long shots or just tried to penetrate and force something.”

Jacksonville scored the final five points of the third quarter and outscored Mills 22-4 in the fourth to finish the game on a 27-4 run.

Jacksonville held a 39-32 lead before Mills scored six straight on three pointers by Devin Campbell and Kaylon Tappin.

Jacksonville’s Justin McCleary answered with a three-point play and reserve guard Tederick Wolfe hit a fast-break layup off a steal and assist by Sergio Berkley to make it 44-38 after three periods.

Mills controlled the boards for the first half of the game, but that also faded late. The Comets opened the third quarter with possession and down 29-27. They took eight shots, got six offensive rebounds and made three free throws to take the lead before Jacksonville even took possession with 6:40 left in the quarter.

Joyner called his team over to the sideline during Mills’ free throws and had a quick but intense conversation about giving up so many offensive rebounds. At that point, Mills held a 17-11 advantage in rebounding, but got just five more rebounds the rest of the game and lost the battle of the boards 25-22.

The first quarter was back-and-forth but ugly. Jacksonville committed nine turnovers and Mills gave it up 12 times. The Red Devils led 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.

Senior Khaleel Hart led all scorers with 20 points. McCleary finished with 13 points, five steals, five assists and four rebounds. Berkley dropped in 11 for the Red Devils. Tappin led Mills with 14 points while Campbell scored 12.

Jacksonville travels to Little Rock Christian Academy on Tuesday.