Monday, December 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Devils turn back Trojans

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville boys basketball team took a step in the right direction Friday, beating the Hot Springs Trojans 80-65 for its second-consecutive win before the Christmas break.

Maintaining sizeable leads has been a problem for the Red Devils this year, and while the Trojans did put together a nice run after falling behind by 23, the Red Devils never let them get any closer than nine in the fourth quarter on its way to the home victory.

“What happened was all three of our big men got into foul trouble and we had to go with a four-guard lineup,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “We hadn’t practiced a four-guard lineup, so we had kids out of place and not really able to get in sync with where we were having to play people. That’s the bottom line on that. Once we were able to weather that storm, we got some post men back in there, and we got back to playing like we had been.”

After dominating most of the first half and taking a 43-26 lead into intermission, Jacksonville held a 46-30 lead when Hot Springs coach Rodney Echols drew a technical foul for too demonstratively arguing calls.

Red Devil senior Sergio Berkley hit one of the two technical free throws. On the ensuing possession, he drained a three and was knocked to the floor on the shot. The subsequent free throw made it 51-30 with 5:36 on the clock.

After a defensive stop, guard Tyree Appleby dropped in a bucket to give Jacksonville its biggest lead of the night with 4:49 left in the third. From that point, the Trojans scored 12 unanswered to finish the quarter.

They also scored first in the fourth quarter to complete a 14-0 with 7:47 left in the game. But that was as close as they would get.

Red Devil post player Damarion Freeman got an offensive rebound and putback 11 seconds later. He was also fouled on the play and the free throw put Jacksonville back up by 12 at 56-44. Junior forward Kerry Knight then scored four-straight, the second bucket a layup after a penetrate and dish by Devin Campbell that put the Red Devils back in command with a 60-44 lead.

Hot Springs briefly cut the margin to 10 at 62-52, but a 12-foot-baseline floater by Appleby started a 6-0 run and Hot Springs never seriously threatened again.

“Appleby’s minutes have been going up because he’s a heady little basketball player and he plays with poise,” Joyner said of his lone freshman.

After Appleby’s bucket, Berkley missed a mid-range jumper, got his own rebound and missed again. Knight then got that rebound, missed, rebounded again and scored for a 14-point, Red Devil lead.

“I thought Kerry Knight stepping in there with our post players in foul trouble, and banging inside and getting some big baskets was big plus,” Joyner said. “We’re looking for people to step up and he stepped up for us in that situation.”

Campbell then finished the run with a steal and a layup that made it 68-52 with 3:50 left to play. Campbell led all scorers with 29 points, including 18 in the first half. Berkley added 23 and Appleby scored 10 for Jacksonville, 6-3.

The Red Devils will play in the SEARK Invitational, and also opens with tournament host Monticello at 2:30 p.m. Friday. Joyner will be looking to work on executing against zone defenses better, which his teams have seen more of this year than in years past.

“With these new rules where you can’t touch anybody, teams are having to play more zone,” Joyner said. “We’ve seen a lot of 1-3-1 and we’re going to have to get better executing against that.

“We also need to find a defensive stopper inside. Right now we don’t have that stopper back there to guard that goal and turn back some shots. We need to see some people step up and do that for us.”