Saturday, March 02, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Defense gets win for Lady Devils

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils had a tough time with the Morrilton Devil Dogs in the first round of the 5A state tournament, but they gradually pulled away in the second half for a 47-33 win Tuesday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Morrilton (14-9) opened the game in what at first appeared to be a box-and-one defense designed specifically to stop Jacksonville standout Jessica Jackson. But it was a ruse. It turned out to be kind of like a box-and-one, which is four players playing zone and one playing man. Morrilton’s defense was four defenders playing a deep sagging man defense, while the fifth stayed on Jackson like a glove.

It took quite a while for the Lady Devils to figure it out. In fact, they never did entirely break the defense down in a half-court setting, so head coach Katrina Mimms decided to go with pressure defense in the second half to try and create points in transition.

“You never know how officials are going to call things in the state tournament, and we’re not real deep so you worry about foul trouble,” Mimms said. “But if things don’t work out, you know you’ve still got that in your back pocket. That made some things happen for us and we were able to get some control in the game.”

Jacksonville led just 9-7 after the first quarter and 24-20 at halftime, but never trailed the entire game.

Jacksonville (22-4) also focused on stopping Morrilton’s inside game with 6-foot-2 senior KT Davis. Despite both teams’ best efforts to take away the other team’s tallest player, each one scored eight points in the first half to lead their respective teams. Jackson got all eight of her points out of the half-court offense. Davis got six of her points on offensive rebounds and putbacks.

Points were very hard for either team to come by in the third quarter. Five minutes and 37 seconds in, Jacksonville got a bucket by sophomore Shakyla Hill. It was just the Lady Red Devils’ second bucket of the quarter, but Morrilton had still not scored and Jacksonville’s lead was 28-20.

Each team added one field goal in the final 3:23 to finish the quarter 6-2 and Jacksonville holding a 30-22 lead heading into the final period of play.

That’s when Mimms called for pressure, and it was effective. Jackson drained a three pointer while Hill got two buckets off steals for a quick 7-0 run. Mimms slowed it down again with a 15-point lead. Morrilton’s Tori Jackson came off the bench and nailed a three pointer with 3:30 left in the game that made it 37-25.

After a free throw by Hill, Tori Jackson drained another three pointer to cut the margin to 10, but Morrilton would get no closer the rest of the way.

Jacksonville had been awful at the free-throw line through three quarters, hitting just 4 of 12 attempts, but made 6 of 7 in the last three minutes to seal the victory.

Jackson led all scorers with 15 points while Hill added 14. David led Morrilton with 10 points after being held to one bucket in the second half.