Friday, January 25, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils escape PA

Special to The Leader

Intensity was high all night in the Alex Hugg Gymnasium, but the Jacksonville Red Devils (12-3, 5-0) found themselves victorious on the road against the Pulaski Academy Bruins (6-5, 3-2) at the end of overtime with a final score of 68-65.

Despite Jacksonville’s victory, Coach Victor Joyner was not pleased with the team’s performance. “[We] didn’t come out with any fire or any grit. Got out-hustled, got out-scrapped,” Joyner said.

There were many lead changes throughout the game, and the biggest lead of the night was the five points Jacksonville scored immediately following tip-off. That lead was quickly topped by Pulaski Academy hitting back-to-back threes. The Bruins continued to rain down threes all night long, hitting 4 of 6 in the first quarter and 10 of 18 on the night.

The Red Devils didn’t fare as well from beyond the arc, hitting only 3 out of 10, and those three all came from senior Aaron Smith. However, their inaccuracy from deep was counter-balanced with their success in the paint.

Senior Justin McCleary led the Red Devils’ scrappy, fast-paced offense from point guard almost all game long. He had assists to nearly every Red Devil who scored from the field.

When senior Khaleel Hart drove to the basket, there was a good chance it was going in. He led the team in points with 15, followed closely by senior Brandon Brockman with 12. McCleary had 11, junior Sergio Berkley had 10, and Smith scored 9.

Jacksonville out-rebounded the Bruins throughout, but missed many second and third chance shots which could’ve given them much better control over the flow of the game.

The Red Devils had an opportunity to wrap things up in regulation. Senior Kevin Richardson was subbed in during the fourth quarter and made a clutch steal which led to a layup that put Jacksonville ahead by three.

But a costly foul at the buzzer from the otherwise reliable McCleary sent Bruin Chase Snider to the line for three shots and a chance to tie the game.

Snider hit all three to lock the score at 57 and send the game into overtime.

The Red Devils began overtime with a 5-point run, but Bruins senior Brandon Brady answered quickly with a deep three. Jacksonville put two more on the board from the free-throw line, but Brady hit yet another three. McCleary went to the line for the last time and hit both free throws to put Jacksonville’s lead at three with just 12.1 seconds left in overtime. The Bruins missed the at-the-buzzer three-point attempt to give The Red Devils the 68-65 win.

Joyner was not pleased with the officiating throughout the night, which he said leaned heavily in favor of the Bruins.

“When you’re not getting any calls or any help and you have a game with that much diversity. You have to work that hard to get one foul,” Joyner said. “But my kids fought with some adversity, and they came out and did what they needed to do. Because that [officiating] was ridiculous.”

Joyner added that his team has some work to do before it continues conference play.

“Everything. We have to work on everything. We have to work on their mental focus, mental toughness.”

The Red Devils hosted Sylvan Hills on Friday, and they play a makeup game against Little Rock McClellan this evening with the Lady Red Devils tipping off at 3 p.m.