Saturday, November 16, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Blue Devils too big for JHS

Leader sports editor

The first six minutes of the William Rountree era of Jacksonville girls’ basketball went great, but West Memphis’ size and superior depth proved too much to handle for the tiny Lady Red Devils in their season opener on Friday. The visiting Lady Blue Devils blew a competitive game open in the fourth quarter to run away with a 78-52 victory at the Devils’ Den gymnasium.

Jacksonville was red hot from the floor in the early going and built a 17-8 lead with 1:20 left in the first quarter, but that lead had dwindled all the way to 20-18 by quarters end.

The game stayed competitive through three quarters. West Memphis held a 51-45 advantage after three, but Jacksonville hit a wall, both physically and from the field.

“Their size hurt us a lot, but really I think fatigue played a big role at the end,” said first-year coach Rountree. “We’ve got to develop some more people to handle the ball and play. I think there were a lot of positives. This was a tough first game against a really good, really long team. Our goal from day one has always been to be at our best on Jan. 7 when we open conference with Mills.”

Jacksonville drained its first two three pointers of the game, one by senior Tiffany Smith and one by senior Keke Alcorn, but went 1 for 13 the rest of the way. Smith and Alcorn went a combined 0 for 9 after the initial makes.

Jacksonville did find other ways to score once the outside shooting dried up. Most of those ways had to do with defense. Jacksonville forced 26 West Memphis turnovers and were able to convert several fast-break buckets.

But in the half-court sets, West Memphis dominated. Jacksonville had no one over 5-foot-6 while West Memphis had no one below 5-foot-9 in the starting lineups. Lady Blue Devil Lashala Sain, a 6-3 sophomore, towered over Jacksonville. Rountree pleaded with his team to box out the whole game, but even when they did box out, they couldn’t get rebounds from Sain. She finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds. West Memphis outrebounded Jacksonville 43-18.

“They are much bigger than us, but we can still do better than that,” Rountree said. “We’re so small, we’re going to have to work our way into good position to rebound because everyone we play is going to be bigger. Maybe not that much bigger, but we have to be better than that.”

Alcorn led all scorers with 21 points while Smith added 20 for Jacksonville. Senior Sacha Richardson scored five points and had seven steals.

Alexis Hamlet scored 16 for West Memphis and Sable Greer added 14 for the Lady Blue Devils.

Jacksonville made just 16 of 61 shots from the floor for 26.3 percent shooting. West Memphis made 27 of 61.

The Lady Red Devils are back in action on Tuesday when they play their first road game at Little Rock Hall.

The girls game was mired by more than 50 fouls called. There was also a 20-minute delay in the fourth quarter due to one of the new rims that were installed earlier in the day coming loose. That delayed the boys game to beyond Leader deadlines. The Red Devils won the game 68-65. Look for more details of that outing and thoughts from coach Vic Joyner on the season opener in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.