Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville barely gets by Sylvan Hills

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville freshmen boys team won the River City Conference tournament championship on Monday, beating Sylvan Hills 49-46 in a thrilling overtime finish.

Jacksonville won the regular-season championship as well and was the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Sylvan Hills got the two seed, but has been playing without its starting point guard for most of the season since varsity coach Kevin Davis moved Cordy Winston up to the varsity team.

Despite the loss of a key player, the Bears rallied and had the top seed and tournament host on the ropes late in the fourth quarter.

Each team missed numerous free throws and field goals in the final minute to send it to overtime tied at 42. Jacksonville got the faster start in the extra three-minute period, scoring six-straight points and taking a 48-42 lead with 1:32 remaining, mostly due to offensive rebounds, an area Sylvan Hills had dominated the entire game.

“I think they just got tired at the end,” Jacksonville coach Tirrell Brown said of Sylvan Hills. “We played a lot more guys and they’re basically down to seven total players. They’re starting point guard was moved up to varsity and I think they lost another kid to injury. But they basically couldn’t substitute and had about three guys that played the whole game.”

Jacksonville (15-2) missed five of its last six free-throw attempts in the overtime period, but offensive rebounds and putbacks made up for four of them. After guard LaQuan Smith made his first two free throws for a 44-42 Jacksonville lead, D’Marcus Hinton and Fonzell Jones followed missed free throws with putbacks that gave the Red Devils a 48-42 lead with a minute left in the overtime period.

“I talked to D’Marcus and said you’ve got to compete – just compete,” Brown said. “You’re 6-foot-4 – compete. The team as a whole, Sylvan Hills is a lot more competitive than we are. That’s sort of been our Achilles heel all season. We’re more talented, but they compete a lot harder than we do and that’s why they almost won this game.”

Sylvan Hills’ Jaylen Wright got a short jumper to cut the margin to four. After a defensive stop, Wright followed two Jabari Brewer missed free throws with an offensive rebound and putback that made it 48-46 with 19 seconds remaining.

Jacksonville fouled Smith with seven seconds left, who hit one of two. Sylvan Hills (16-4) called timeout with five seconds remaining to set up a final shot. Kaylon Love got a good look at a three pointer, but his shot was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.

The Bears had several chances to win the game in regulation. With the score tied, the Bears missed a three pointer, got an offensive rebound and was fouled. They missed the front end of the one-and-one, but again got the rebound. Wright missed a shot but Kaleb Williams got the rebound and dished out to Love, who missed a mid-range jumper as the buzzer sounded to send the game to overtime.

Jacksonville began to pull away late in the first quarter, but Sylvan Hills answered quickly. The Red Devils scored the first bucket of the second quarter to cap a 12-1 run that gave them a 14-7 lead. Sylvan Hills answered with a fast 6-0 run that made it 14-13 and the game was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way. Neither team led by more than three points until Jacksonville took the six-point lead in overtime.

The Bears won the battle of the boards 28-20 against the bigger Red Devils. Wright led all players with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Both teams had a balanced scoring attack. Samuel Williams added nine for Sylvan Hills while Jaylon Jordan scored eight. All seven Bears got on the scoreboard.

Smith led Jacksonville with 12 points, half coming from the foul line. Hinton scored 11 and fellow post player Jones added 10 for the Red Devils. Brown was pleased with how his team worked the ball inside for good looks.

“Our ball movement and offensive execution has been pretty consistent all season,” Brown said. “Sylvan Hills played us a 1-3-1 and that’s what you do against that defense. You try to move the ball and get good looks for your inside guys. We did a pretty good job of that and the post guys made their shots. It’s always important to finish.”

The Bears knocked off White Hall on Saturday to get to the championship while Jacksonville put away Watson Chapel.