Friday, February 01, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Comets shoot down Devils

Leader sportswriter

Mills University Studies handed Jacksonville its first loss in 5A Central Conference play this season with a 50-44 upset win Tuesday at the Galaxy in Little Rock.

The Red Devils trailed the majority of the game and managed to make a run late, but the Comets had an answer for nearly every Jacksonville basket, especially in the fourth quarter. A lack of poise and execution in the game plan is what Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said determined the outcome of the game.

“Poise,” said Joyner. “Poise and patience – we didn’t have any, point blank. That’s what lost the game. We never shot like that. Like I said, poise, even at the free-throw line. Poise and patience – that’s the bottom line. They came out in the first half and just forced it and didn’t do anything. This is the first time all season they didn’t follow the game plan that I put up. That wasn’t my game plan.”

Mills (10-8, 4-3) started the game with an 8-2 scoring run, but Jacksonville (14-4, 7-1) battled back to take its first and only lead with 55.6 seconds to play in the opening quarter on a free throw by Aaron Smith. Smith’s free throw put the Red Devils up 13-12, but Shaquon Fletcher and Omar Avance scored the final four points of the frame to give Mills a 16-13 lead.

Fletcher led all scorers with 20 points. Twelve of those points came at the free-throw line. Mills made 17 of 24 shots at the line (71 percent) and made 42 percent of its shots beyond the arc.

Jacksonville had a less than stellar night at the line, going 12 for 23 (52 percent), and had an off night from three-point range, making just 2 of 12 attempts (17 percent).

Nykel Worthern made the first Jacksonville three pointer at the 6:28 mark of the second quarter that tied the game at 16-16. But turnovers hurt the Red Devils in the next two minutes.

Mills scored four straight points off of Jacksonville turnovers to take a 20-16 lead midway through the quarter, and by halftime the Comets led 26-21.

Mills pushed its lead to double digits with 5:06 to play in the third quarter on a rebound and putback by Devin Campbell, making the score 36-26. Jacksonville trimmed the deficit to five as the quarter wound down, but with four seconds on the clock, Avance drained his fifth three pointer of the game in as many attempts to give the home team a 41-33 lead.

A pair of free throws by Fletcher put Mills back up by double digits at the start of the fourth, but Jacksonville steadily chipped away at the lead from there. After Fletcher’s free throws, the Red Devils outscored the Comets 11-4 to make it a three-point game with 49 seconds to play.

Unfortunately for the Devils, they weren’t able to score again. Fletcher made 3 of 4 free throws in the final seconds to set the final score.

“The first time we played them we executed and got the best shot possible, made them play a little defense on their end,” Joyner said of his team’s win over Mills earlier in the season. “Well, the first half, there was a lot of forcing. No poise, no patience. They’re a running team. They weren’t getting turnovers to get extra possessions. We were giving it to them with quick shots and forcing the ball.”

Jacksonville and Mills each finished the game with 18 rebounds, but the Red Devils’ 16 turnovers were three more than the Comets committed.

Justin McCleary led Jacksonville with 10 points. Sergio Berkley scored nine and Smith added seven.

The Red Devils played host to Little Rock Christian yesterday after deadlines. Look for details of that game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.