Friday, February 28, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils slide past Bears

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got a win in its regular-season finale Tuesday, but it didn’t come easily. The Red Devils held off a surging Sylvan Hills squad 61-58 at the Devil’s Den to finish 13-1 in league play and win its second-straight outright 5A-Central championship.

The Bears came into the game 4-7 in league play and 10-12 overall, but played like a team among the best in 5A. The biggest lead by either team was nine points at 43-34 early in the third quarter, but Sylvan Hills answered with an 8-0 run that got it back to a one-point game with three minutes left in the same period.

Sylvan Hills point guard Cordy Winston sparked the run with back-to-back 3-pointers and Aumonie Armond added a putback of a Winston miss, forcing Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner to call timeout.

The Red Devils were able to stretch the lead back to five at 50-45 by the end of the third, and pushed it to 56-49 with five minutes remaining, but the Bears had another run left in them. Senior guard Ronnie Hinton scored and sophomore Jalen West got a steal.

He missed the transition layup, but Armond was there for the stickback to make it 56-53 with 3:58 remaining. After a series of turnovers by both teams, senior Bear Nathan Burchett hit a long 2-pointer to make it 56-55 with 2:20 remaining.

Jacksonville’s Devin Campbell was fouled and hit both free throws with 1:34 left. Winston then lost the ball trying to penetrate the lane. Campbell picked it up and was fouled again. This time he made 1 of 2 for a four-point Red Devil lead with 1:14 left.

Sylvan Hills got three shots on the ensuing possession, and senior post player David Johnson was fouled as he put in a reverse layup. The free throw made it 59-58 with 58 seconds left.

Jacksonville executed its offense but couldn’t find an open shot. Joyner called a timeout with 29 seconds left and Sylvan Hills fouled Sergio Berkley just two seconds after play resumed. Berkley made both free throws to set the final margin. Hinton, the team’s best outside shooter, got three open looks to tie the game. Hinton missed the first and Armond got the rebound. He kicked back out to Hinton who missed again. Winston and Berkley grabbed the rebound simultaneously. Jump ball was called and possession went back to Sylvan Hills with 4.3 seconds left on the clock. Hinton got another open look from the left wing but it too was off the mark.

Joyner didn’t think his team played its best game, but was happy with the win and another conference championship.

“It’s a win and that’s all that matters,” said Joyner. “I’m just glad to get it over with and have a few days to prepare for next week. Sylvan Hills came in here with nothing to lose and just played good basketball. I thought there were a lot of things we could have done better, but we had some kids step up and hit some big free throws at the end.”

Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis was pleased with how his team played, and didn’t have any regrets about how the season might have gone if the team had played as well all season as it did on Tuesday.

“No, because this team has had some tough breaks this year, on the court and off of it,” said Davis. “You look at this conference and how tough it is. We had some chemistry issues early and just about when we’re getting that resolved we lose a couple of players. One that was really like a starter decided mid-season he was going to focus on football. Then we have some really close games that go into overtime that we can’t pull out. If we have just a couple of bounces here and there go our way, things could look a lot different. You want to be playing your best right about now and I think we’re doing that. We just had some bad breaks early and in a conference as tough as this one, those make a big difference.”

One big difference between Tuesday’s game and the first meeting in Sherwood was the rebounding totals. Jacksonville outrebounded the Bears 37-17 in the first meeting, but only 29-26 on Tuesday. Armond finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Winston led all scorers with 17 while Hinton added 10 for the Bears.

Campbell led Jacksonville with 16 points while Berkley, Kanaan Jackson and Tedrick Wolfe each finished with 10.

The Lady Red Devils took out a week’s worth of frustrations on the Lady Bears. Jacksonville entered the game on a two-game losing streak while Sylvan Hills was fresh off its first conference win of the season, but both of those streaks came to an abrupt halt as Jacksonville hammered the Lady Bears 66-26.