Saturday, November 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> JHS holds off Lions’ rally for road win

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils didn’t have to come back in the fourth quarter to win like it did in its opener, but it did have to hold off a hard-charging Searcy team after building a large lead on Thursday. The Red Devils beat the Lions 70-66 on the Lions’ home court in the first-round of the Searcy Bank Classic on the campus of SHS.

Jacksonville built leads of 11 and 16 in the second half only to see the home team charge back each time. The Red Devils led 44-33 midway through the third quarter before Searcy, 0-2,went on a 9-0 run to cut the margin back to two. Jacksonville then answered with the final six points of the third quarter, and then the first nine of the fourth.

When sophomore LaQuawn Smith hit junior Tedrick Wolfe for a backdoor alley oop that made it 59-42 with 3:31 left in the game, it seemed all but over. But Searcy made a furious comeback, utilizing half-court traps to force turnovers on four-straight Jacksonville possessions.

The Red Devils also obliged Searcy’s efforts by making just 13 of 29 free-throw attempts, including missing 4 of 6 attempts during the Lions’ run. In less than a minute, the margin was down to 63-56. With 2:08 left, it was 63-58. When another Red Devil turnover turned into fastbreak points by Searcy guard James Wade, that made it 64-61 with 1:34 remaining in the game.

Jacksonville finally began handling the pressure and Searcy was forced to foul to extend the game. The Red Devils also finally began knocking down free throws. They made their last six of their last eight to keep Searcy from ever tying or taking the lead.

Wade hit a three pointer with 53 seconds left that made it 66-64, and Searcy had two possessions with a chance to tie or take the lead, and came away empty each time.

Jacksonville junior Devin Campbell hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 67-64 with 35 seconds left, and Wade threw up a wild shot at the other end that missed everything. Searcy then sent senior Sergio Berkley to the line, who drained both his attempts for a 69-64 lead with 20 seconds to go.

Searcy sophomore Jeremiah Clifton missed a three at the other end, but Wade got the rebound and put it back. Searcy called timeout with seven seconds left and fouled Campbell again after less than a second ticked off the clock.

Campbell again hit 1 of 2 and Searcy’s final three was no good.

“We’re still trying to find the core group that we can count on,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “I know I saw a few early in this game that proved they’re not ready. It’s all about getting ready for January. We need to do better closing teams out, but we’re just searching for the right chemistry right now. We’re a long way from being a championship level basketball team, but we’re finding ways to win. We could be 0-2 right now.”

Jacksonville, 2-0, shot poorly from the line, but shot well from the floor, hitting 25 of 49 attempts while Searcy made 21 of 62. The Lions were 21 of 33 from the foul line.

Searcy also pulled off the rare feat of out-rebounding Jacksonville, holding a 28-27 advantage on the boards.

Campbell led all scorers with 27 points while Berkley added 20 for Jacksonville. Wade scored 25 to lead Searcy, including 12 from the foul line. He missed his first free throw of the game before making 12 straight. Emaje Young added 12 points for the Lions while sophomore Jeremiah Clifton had nine points and 10 rebounds.

The Red Devils also faced Greenbrier last night, and will face Benton at 4:30 p.m. today.