Friday, February 08, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville gets sweep of city rival

Leader sportswriter

Solid defensive play, especially in the first half, helped Jacksonville coast to a 58-34 victory over North Pulaski in Tuesday’s 5A Central Conference matchup at the Devil’s Den.

Sergio Berkley and Khaleel Hart scored the first six points of the game on jump shots to give Jacksonville (17-4, 9-1) a quick 6-0 lead. North Pulaski (9-11, 3-6) cut it to one after Daniel Drone, Fred Thomas and Andrew Wilson combined to score the next five points, but the Red Devils closed the quarter with an 8-0 run to lead 14-5 after a quarter of play.

The Red Devils’ run continued into the second quarter as they scored the next 11 points to lead 25-5. North Pulaski could only manage two field goals in the quarter while Jacksonville racked up 18 points to take a commanding 32-9 lead at halftime.

“We’ve been working on defense,” said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. “Since the Mills game, it really made them realize that defense has to come first. If you notice our point totals are down since the Mills game, but our defensive statistics are better.”

Jacksonville gave up just three field goals in the first half, and contested every shot from the perimeter throughout the game. North Pulaski rarely had an open look from three-point range, and as a result, the Falcons were 0 for 11 from beyond the arc.

North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson, who was a longtime assistant at Jacksonville before becoming the head Falcon, is all too familiar with the Red Devil tradition, and knew his team had to play near-perfect in order to keep pace with the No. 2 team in class 5A.

“We just wanted to play good, solid defense and try and take away some of their strength,” said Jackson. “They came out and shot the ball well and played really excellent defense. We had trouble scoring. I had a couple of kids out. My leading scorer (RaShawn Langston), he’s out sick, and another one of my starting guards (Eric Mouton) is out sick. That makes it tough on us, but there’s no excuses.

“Our other kids have to step up to the plate. My hats off to the Red Devils, coach Joyner and his staff. They do a wonderful job. This is a tough place to win. I knew it was going to be tough on us, but we have to keep working.”

Jacksonville narrowly outscored North Pulaski 12-11 in the third quarter to lead 44-20 heading into the final frame. Each team used several different rotations in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach, and the Falcons had their best scoring quarter as Joe Aikens, Steven Farrior and Jarod Craven combined to score 14 points.

However, it didn’t put much of a dent in the margin as Jacksonville racked up 13 points. The final bucket of the game was a wide-open, two-handed slam by Keith Charleston with seconds to play, that was the result of a North Pulaski turnover.

“You know if you’re running a mile and you’re leading by a lap, then you relax for a minute. And when they pull up to you and you see them coming, you take off again. That’s kind of what they did,” Joyner said describing his team’s play. “They didn’t box out as much down the stretch, but defensively, I think we’re doing a little bit better job than what we’ve been doing.”

Each team grabbed a total of 29 rebounds in the game. North Pulaski committed 18 turnovers, seven more than Jacksonville’s 11. The Red Devils were 17 for 26 at the free-throw line for 65 percent. The Falcons were slightly more efficient, making 10 of 15 shots for 67 percent.

Jacksonville’s defense at the perimeter made it difficult for North Pulaski to get any good looks. On the other end, the Red Devils made 4 of 11 attempts from the three-point line for 36 percent.

Justin McCleary led all scorers with 15 points. Berkley and Aaron Smith each scored nine for Jacksonville. Aikens led the Falcons with 10 points. Craven, Farrior and Thomas added six points apiece.

Jacksonville played at Little Rock McClellan yesterday after deadlines in a game that decided first place in the 5A Central. Look for details of that game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader. The Red Devils play again Tuesday against Helena-West Helena Central at home.

North Pulaski played at Mills yesterday after deadlines and will host Little Rock Christian on Tuesday.