Saturday, November 09, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> State champions show new faces

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville High School’s basketball season got under way Tuesday night as the varsity boys and girls took the floor for the teams’ annual Red-White exhibition games at the Devils’ Den.

Both the Red Devils and Lady Red Devils won last season’s class 5A state championship, and even though some players are back from those championship teams, for the most part, each team has a lot of new faces that are hoping to build off of last season’s success and create their own basketball legacy at JHS.

The Lady Red Devils took the floor first and played three quarters of competitive basketball. The Red team got off to a quick 5-0 start, but the White team scored the next 14 points and took the exhibition by the final score of 30-23.

The boys’ game was similar in that aspect, as the Red team got off to a fast start, but the White team wearing black jerseys finished the four-quarter exhibition with an and-one play by returning starter Sergio Berkley to win bragging rights by the score of 54-53.

Berkley was one of the few recognizable faces on the floor for the Red Devils, and he finished the exhibition with a high of 30 points. However, a lot of the new faces on the floor for the Red Devils showed promise, and it may not take too long for the JHS boys to become state title contenders yet again.

“We’re starting over,” said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. “They’re athletic and they’re trying to find chemistry, but I’m still learning them. They’re learning me. I mean, it’s a feeling out process every day I see them in practice.

“We need to get into some games and see how to put these pieces together. We’re athletic and we have our moments, but we have to fit it together. In order to win a title or even play for one, there are a lot of little bitty pieces that have to fit.”

Even though the Jacksonville boys added a few more players to their roster with the school’s football season ending yesterday, the Red Devils are still a pretty young team, and even though there’s talent there, Joyner is eager to see how his group will play together as a team once the regular season begins next week.

“I’m not trying to compare us to Miami (Heat),” Joyner said, “but look what Miami did as soon as they put them all together. Look what the Lakers did when they put (Gary) Payton, (Karl) Malone and all of them together. They were all All-Stars, but you can’t just put a bunch of players on one team and say ‘hey, go win it.’

“There’s a lot of give and take – a lot of sacrifice. There’s only one ball and it’s hard, and right now that’s where we’re at. We’ve got good players, a good nucleus, but right now it’s all over the place. We just have to learn to get it together before January. That’s the key.”

Joyner added that his team was chomping at the bits to play in front of a game-type atmosphere like the one Tuesday, and other than Berkley, Devin Campbell, Tedrick Wolfe, Braylon James, Kanaan Jackson, Marice Young and Tyree Appleby each put together solid scoring performances in their time on the floor.

In the girls’ game, Keke Alcorn and Tiffany Smith led the way offensively for the Lady Red Devils. Alcorn scored the majority of her 11 points early in the game as she led the White team to a bragging rights victory in the exhibition, but Smith kept it close with her play down the stretch. Smith’s 13 points led the Red team.

Like Joyner is with his team, Lady Red Devils’ coach William Rountree is still trying to get a feel for his new group of players. This is Rountree’s first year as the Lady Red Devils’ coach. He was hired in the summer to replace former coach Katrina Mimms, who resigned after last season’s state championship.

Rountree was hired as the Jacksonville girls’ coach after spending eight seasons as the head coach of the Carlisle High School boys’ basketball team. He never had a losing season during his tenure leading the Bison.

“I thought the kids played hard,” said Rountree after the exhibition. “I didn’t have any problem with the effort. Any time you split up your squad, there’s going to be a little of this or that offensively, but the effort was good. I thought overall the enthusiasm was good.

“It is what it is. It’s an intra-squad scrimmage, and we’ll all come back in the morning and look to get better.”

In addition to Smith and Alcorn, Rountree was complimentary of the play of Antrice McCoy, Ashli Evans and Sacha Richardson. Rountree did say he’d like to get Richardson more involved offensively, something he said the team will work on before the regular season begins.

Before opening their regular season at home against West Memphis in a nonconference game on Nov. 15, the Lady Red Devils will host a jamboree today, and play two quarters against Little Rock Central and two quarters against Sylvan Hills. Rountree hopes to see more improvement in those exhibition games in order to gear up for the regular-season opener.

“We’ve got several young players that I think are going to be good players,” Rountree said. “We had a couple that didn’t shoot it as well as they would normally shoot it. They were probably a little nervous, but they’re going to be good players.

“I liked our crowd. There’s a lot of enthusiasm here for basketball. Of course, it’s no secret this is a basketball hot bed. It always has been, and the girls did what everyone aspires to do last year. We hope we still have a lot of carryover from that, but I thought our fans showed up well in numbers, and it was good.”