Friday, May 24, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> City leaders turn out for Devils, ladies

Leader sports editor

Celebrations of state titles linger for a while as community supporters organize events to honor their champions, but they can’t last forever. Thursday marked the final and best ceremony honoring Jacksonville’s two 2013 state basketball championship teams, the presentation of rings.

Jacksonville mayor Gary Fletcher and First Arkansas Bank and Trust President Larry Wilson were on hand at Southern Oaks Country Club to once again congratulate the boys and girls basketball teams and remind them that the hard work and dedication that earned them the championships would lead to similar success throughout their lives.

The Jacksonville boys went 26-4 overall and won the 5A Central Conference championship with a 13-1 record. They beat Alma 56-53 in the state championship game at Barton Coliseum on March 8.

The Lady Red Devils capped their campaign on the same day, relegating Paragould to bridesmaid status for the second consecutive year with a dominant 54-43 victory. The Jacksonville girls finished the season 25-4 and were a perfect 14-0 in conference play. They had just three wins compared to four losses two weeks into the season, but finished on a 22-game winning streak and didn’t lose a game after Dec. 8.

After a disappointing showing at the Fort Smith Tournament of Champions, where they Lady Devils went 1-2 and lost to Fort Smith Northside and CAC while shorthanded, the Jacksonville girls turned things around for good. With a 3-4 record, Jacksonville rebounded from that tournament with back-to-back wins over defending state champions Little Rock Parkview and Cabot.

“That really was the turning point in our season,” said Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms in a recent interview.

“We knew we weren’t full strength for that tournament, but other people didn’t and they kind of started writing us off.”

There was also a surprise presentation for team volunteer Velma Warner. Certain team sponsors had already received autographed commemorative basketballs, and Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson gave one to Warner on Thursday.

“There’s no one in the state of Arkansas who deserves one more than you,” Wilson said to Warner.

Warner has attended every Jacksonville basketball game for the last several years, and provides home-cooked food for a renowned hospitality room at all JHS home basketball games.