Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Bruins spoil Red Devils’ perfect mark

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville recovered from a slow start to take a two-point lead into halftime of Friday’s 5A-Central Conference matchup at Pulaski Academy, but the Bruins kept the score close in the second half and made enough plays down the stretch to hand the Red Devils their first conference loss of the season by the final score of 76-74.

Pulaski Academy’s senior point guard Marcus Wallace scored the first five points of the game and the Bruins led 21-12 at the end of the first quarter. Wallace gave the Bruins their first double-digit lead of the game at 26-15 on a pair of free throws with 6:47 left in the second quarter.

After Wallace’s free throws, Jacksonville responded with a 15-3 run to take a 30-29 lead with 1:41 left in the opening half. It was the Red Devils’ first lead of the game, and the go-ahead bucket came on a driving layup down the baseline by LaQuawn Smith.

Pulaski Academy battled back and tied the score at 33-33, but junior guard Devin Campbell gave the Red Devils a 35-33 lead at the break on a baseline floater that left his hand just before the buzzer sounded.

Both teams scored 14 points in the third quarter, which gave the Red Devils (21-4, 12-1) a narrow 49-47 lead entering the fourth quarter, but the Bruins (19-4, 10-2) took the lead early in the fourth and managed to hold off whatever rally Jacksonville could muster down the stretch.

Pulaski Academy first tied the game at 53 all on a 3-pointer from the corner by sophomore shooting guard Lawson Korita with 6:59 left to play. The Bruins got a steal at midcourt on the Red Devils’ ensuing possession, and took the lead on a midrange jumper by Chad Mikhaelis, which forced Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner to call timeout with 6:24 remaining.

The Bruins took their biggest lead at 64-59 on an alley-oop dunk from Korita to Wallace that sent the home crowd into a frenzy with 3:47 on the clock. However, Wallace was given a technical foul for hanging on the rim. It was Wallace’s fifth foul and he had to sit the rest of the game as a result.

Pulaski Academy coach Roger Franks vehemently argued the call to every official on the court, but it was to no avail, and Jacksonville point guard Sergio Berkley went to the line and sank both technical free throws as a result, which cut the host team’s lead to 64-61.

Jacksonville trimmed PA’s lead to one on three separate occasions in the game’s final minutes. The first of which came on a layup by Smith with 2:04 to play, which made it a 66-65 game, and the next came on a 3-pointer by Berkley with 26 seconds remaining that made the score 73-72.

Tedrick Wolfe set Jacksonville’s point total on the third occasion, sinking two free throws with three seconds to play that made the score 75-74 Bruins. Korita, who put the host team on his back with Wallace out of the game, set the final score with a free throw and an intentional miss with two seconds to play.

Campbell got the rebound, but was unable to get a shot off before the final buzzer.

“We are 25 games into the season and this team is no more a team than when we started in September,” said Joyner. “They said they’re going to prove me wrong Monday in practice. I’m going to see, because they’re not a team yet.

“I mean, they play hard. They’ve had a lot of success. But to go as far as they want to go, there’s some stuff that has to change. It’s got nothing to do with complacence. It’s got to do with them doing the same things I’ve been trying to coach out of them since September.

“They (Pulaski Academy) made some shots. They played well enough to win the game, but so did we. The difference was the decisions being made by their players altered the decisions being made by my players.”

Jacksonville made 22 of 40 shots from the floor for 55 percent. Pulaski Academy made 27 of 54 shots for 50 percent. The Bruins made 8 of 19 3-pointers for 42 percent, bettering the Red Devils’ 2 of 12 showing from beyond the arc for 17 percent.

From the free-throw line, Jacksonville made 26 of 35 attempts and Pulaski Academy made 14 of 18.

The Red Devils finished the game with 12 turnovers. The Bruins had 10 turnovers, but only three in the third quarter and none in the fourth.

Korita led all scorers with 28 points, 23 of which came in the second half including 15 in the fourth quarter. Wallace had 20 points.

Berkley led Jacksonville with 21 points. Campbell had 18 points. Wolfe finished with 12, and Smith added 10.

The Lady Red Devils were outscored 18-4 during a long stretch in the third quarter en route to a 67-40. It was Jacksonville’s second-straight loss and drops the team that started the week in first place all the way to third.

“We can still be that team in the state tournament that goes through, but we’ve got to regain our mojo,” said Jacksonville girls’ coach William Rountree. “We’ve got to get back on the practice floor and get better, and that’s going to be our challenge.”