Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Devils, ladies pound Cougars

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville struggled a bit early, but got things together fairly quickly to rout Helena-West Helena Central 78-51 on Friday at Central High School.

Facing a large and loud student section, Jacksonville senior Justin McCleary scored the first nine points of the game on three consecutive three pointers to quiet the crowd. The Cougars answered with the next seven points, but the Red Devils took over from there.

“We didn’t play the best mental game we could’ve played,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “It was a different atmosphere, they have that rubber floor. My kids were just out of sorts early on. We were making unforced turnovers we don’t usually make. We had a chance to put them away pretty early but the unforced turnovers let them back in it.”

The Cougars did have an inside force that made things difficult for Jacksonville. Jouvan Donald’s post play forced Joyner to go deep into his bench after all his post players got into foul trouble.

“We didn’t have an answer for him,” Joyner said. “He got all three of my post players in foul trouble. Once they all got into foul trouble, we just had to switch to a zone and force them to make outside shots.”

But it was Jacksonville (11-3, 4-0) that got hot in the second half, especially shooting guard Aaron Smith. Smith is the team’s best outside shooter, but went 0 for 5 from behind the arc in the first half. He caught fire in the second half and ended leading the team with 21 points.

“Once Aaron started knocking down those threes, they had to extend their defense and that opened up some lanes to get to the basket,” Joyner said. “They stayed in that 1-3-1 defense the whole game and you can’t pass up open shots. It was just a matter of somebody starting to hit a few of them and opening things up for us.”

Smith’s barrage came at the start of the fourth quarter. Jacksonville led 42-25 at halftime. They managed just 13 points in the third quarter, but held HWHC to five, and led by 25 to start the fourth. The Cougars best offensive quarter was the last one, but the fast-pace suited Jacksonville as well and the Red Devils had an answer for every Cougar rally.

McCleary finished with 17 for Jacksonville while Donald led Central with 14. Frederick Bedford scored 13 for the Cougars (6-7, 2-2)

The Lady Red Devils (11-4, 4-0) had barely broken a sweat before their game with the Lady Cougars (4-9, 1-3) was all but over in their 74-36 win. Jacksonville’s guards harassed Central into numerous turnovers, then converted near flawlessly in transition. It all led to a 30-4 lead by the end of the first quarter.

“The press was really working well early,” Lady Red Devil coach Katrina Mimms said. “Once we got the ball we had people shooting the lanes and filling it out wide. We got a bunch of layups and we shot it really well.”

Sophomore Shakyla Hill led the way with 19 points while juniors Keke Alcorn and Tiffany Smith scored 13 and 12 respectively. The team’s leader in scoring average, Jessica Jackson, scored 11 points.

Mimms was pleased to see her team put up big offensive numbers without relying on Jackson to carry most of the load.

“Keke Alcorn has been in double figures now in these last few games,” Mimms said. “The good thing about that is she’s done it in different ways. Here she got a bunch of layups. In other games she’s been hitting from outside. So it’s a good thing to keep her confidence up and keep her shooting it. And I think Tiff (Smith) is starting to shoot the ball really well.”

Jacksonville hosts two games this weekend. The boys and girls will face Sylvan Hills on Friday with the girls starting at 6 p.m. On Saturday, they play their makeup with Little Rock McClellan with the girls tipping things off at 3 p.m.