Friday, March 07, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Red Devils get big help from post

Leader sports editor

ALMA – Outside shots weren’t falling, but the third-seeded Jacksonville Lady Red Devils adjusted to pull out a 68-57 victory over two-seed White Hall in the first round of the class 5A state tournament on Friday.

Senior post player Markela Bryles drew the unenviable task of guarding White Hall’s 6-foot-2 Jae’Lisa Allen, who has committed to the University of Virginia. Though only 5-foot-8, Bryles was outstanding on the offensive end, scoring 34 points, a tournament high so far, and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead the Lady Devils in both categories.

“We weren’t shooting well and White Hall did some good things early that put us on our heels,” said Jacksonville coach William Rountree. “We adjusted. We moved the ball well on offense and found other ways to score.”

Jacksonville, 16-9, didn’t even find the rim with its first four 3-point attempts and the Lady Bulldogs built a 16-10 lead after one period of play. White Hall’s lead peaked at 18-11 before Jacksonville began the slowly climb back into the game.

Freshman Alexis James entered the game for Jacksonville and immediately forced a quick turnover.

Keke Alcorn found Bryles underneath on the ensuing possession for a three-point play. White Hall continued to dominate the boards in the second quarter, but shots were no longer going in.

Jacksonville took its first lead of the game when Tiffany Smith hit two free throws to make it 21-20 with 2:47 left in the first half. The lead changed hands four times before halftime, and the quarter ended with the score tied at 28.

Bryles had 20 of the Lady Red Devils’ points in the first half, but foul trouble plagued her.

She picked up her third foul just before the half ended. It was Jacksonville’s 11th foul of the half, and White Hall had 10. Both teams would finish with 28 fouls, as whistles became a huge factor in the second half.

The two teams combined to shoot 50 free throws in just the second half alone, with 71 shot for the game.

Jacksonville made 27 of 44 while White Hall hit 16 of 27.

“We got into some foul trouble in the second half, and I think a big key to this game was getting some quality minutes from some of our bench players,” Rountree said. “We had some step up and give us a big lift when we had to sit the starters. I thought Tatiana Lacy played a great game for us.”

White Hall scored the first four points of the second half, but Jacksonville answered with a 10-0 run and never trailed again. After a free throw by Antrice McCoy and four-straight points by Bryles, Alcorn hit Jacksonville’s first 3-pointer of the game to make it 36-32. Alcorn then got a rebound and her outlet pass to McCoy resulted in a bucket and a 38-32 Jacksonville lead.

White Hall’s Shareif Shelton hit a three, but James answered at the other end. After forcing a 10-second violation, Smith hit Bryles underneath for a 42-35 Lady Red Devil lead with three minutes left in the third. After an offensive foul, it was James’ turn to find Bryles down low for a 44-35 lead.

Jacksonville’s largest lead came on a Smith 3-pointer with 7:18 remaining that made it 51-39, but the fouls and free throws began to pile up quickly from that point. There were 33 free throws shot in the fourth quarter. White Hall closed the gap to as little as 58-54 before calling a timeout with exactly two minutes left. But the Lady Bulldogs left the lane open for Alcorn to drive and hit a layup after the timeout.

James found Bryles again with 1:09 left, but the two teams just traded free throws the rest of the way.

McCoy added 11 points for Jacksonville. Allen led White Hall with 17 while Hailey Wilkins added 14 for the Lady Bulldogs.

Jacksonville will play 5A-East champion Paragould at 1 p.m. Monday. The Lady Rams hammered tournament host Alma 70-48 in their first-round game on Thursday. Jacksonville beat Paragould in the state championship game last year.