Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils find an answer for Blue Devils’ run

Leader sports editor

Fouls and long delays mired the Jacksonville Red Devils’ opening basketball game of the season, and the mire almost cost the young team a win. Jacksonville blew an early 23-point lead and trailed by seven in the fourth quarter, but the 64 fouls called, 35 against Jacksonville, wasn’t enough to kill the players’ spirits, as they rallied from the deficit to beat West Memphis 68-65 on Friday at JHS.

“All those fouls just messed up the whole flow of the game,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “Our press was killing them early and we built that big lead. But we had so many fouls piling up and so many people in foul trouble, we couldn’t stay aggressive and keep pressing. It altered the way we had to play the game.”

Early foul calling was going against West Memphis. The class 7A Blue Devils were called for 13 fouls in the first quarter as Jacksonville built a 19-7 lead. That all began to change dramatically in the second period. West Memphis was called for only four fouls in the second period while Jacksonville was called 12 times. In total, Jacksonville was whistled 18 times in the first half and West Memphis 17.

Despite being on the wrong end of the whistle for most of the second quarter, the Red Devils were able to stretch their lead to as much as 33-10 before the visitors began to mount a comeback that culminated in a 61-54 West Memphis lead with 3:30 left in the game.

Jacksonville’s lead reached its peak with 4:30 left in the first half when junior Kerry Knight drained a three pointer to make it 33-10. From that point, the Blue Devils started going to the line and making the most of it. The Blue Devils outscored their hosts 16-4 the rest of the half and had the margin down to nine at 36-27.

With the Red Devils forced to come out of the press, West Memphis continued to slowly chip away in the third quarter, and exploded early in the fourth to move ahead by seven.

Jacksonville’s Devin Campbell drained a three pointer with 3:00 remaining to make it 61-47. After a West Memphis free throw, junior Jarvis McChristin hit another three pointer to pull the Red Devils to within 62-60 with 2:20 left.

Knight then hit another three pointer that put the Red Devils ahead for good after a West Memphis timeout.

The comeback showed poise by a young team, and could pay big dividends down the road for the Red Devils.

“Coming back and winning that game was paramount,” Joyner said. “To lose a big lead like that against a top 7A team, that could’ve been devastating to a young team if they lose that game. For them to pull together and collectively pull that thing out of the fire like that, hopefully that shows what will be the character of this team. They didn’t get discouraged or start blaming each other or anything. They pinned their ears back and found a way to win.”

Campbell led all scorers with 20 points while senior Sergio Berkley added 11, despite having to play out of position.

“Sergio had to go inside because all our big men were in foul trouble,” Joyner said. “We had to come together and, individually, we had to do some things out of our comfort zone to help the team. I was pleased to see them do that this early in the year. People talk about a good loss or a bad loss or a good win or bad win. This was a good win for a young team. This is one of those games that if you pay attention to what happened, you can build off of it. Hopefully this will go a long way.”

Gary Patterson led West Memphis with 19 points.

The Red Devils will be back in action at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the Searcy Bank Classic at SHS. Jacksonville will face the host team.