Friday, March 14, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Mustangs’ size too much for Devils

Leader sports editor

HOT SPRINGS – Superior size and renewed focus on utilizing it in the second half turned things around for the Forrest City Mustangs as they beat Jacksonville 69-60 Friday in the class 5A state championship game at Summit Arena.

Jacksonville out-played the bigger, favored Forrest City Mustangs in the first half – winning the rebounding battle 16-11 and taking a 35-29 lead into intermission.

After a sputtering start by both teams in the third, Forrest City, who entered the game on a 17-game winning streak, began to assert itself inside, and on defense.

Jacksonville’s offense, which executed well in the first half, was unable to find the open looks in the second half.

Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner believes temperament had something to do with it.

“We just couldn’t settle down,” said Joyner. “Sergio (Berkley) summed it up better than I could. When he would call a play in the first half, we’d be there. We weren’t there in the second half and he got caught up with the ball. And we just couldn’t get settled down and run our plays. That was the difference in the game.”

Jacksonville got steals on Forrest City’s first three possessions of the second half, but turned the ball over twice and missed from outside once.

Once the Mustangs got on track, they never got off. Forrest City outscored Jacksonville 40-25 in the second half, and hit its free throws down the stretch to keep Jacksonville’s comeback bid at bay.

“We started the season 1-3,” said Forrest City coach Dwight Lofton. “We got to reading about how good we were supposed to be. But when you’re 1-3, you have to look in the mirror. I told the guys that if they would commit to doing what it takes, we might not lose another ball game. We lost one more in double overtime at the finals of the Poplar Bluff shootout, and that was it. It is tremendous what these young men have accomplished.”

The first half started slowly, but revved up to a frenzied pace midway through the second quarter. Forrest City got its first lead when sophomore Robert Glasper hit the first of his three first-half 3-pointers, but the Mustangs didn’t lead again the rest of the period. Mustang senior Jayshun Jordan hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the opening period to cut Jacksonville’s margin to 16-14. He then hit another 3-pointer to open the second quarter, giving the Mustangs their first lead since early in the first.

From that point there were five lead changes the rest of the half. Forrest City began to steal the momentum when it went on an 8-2 run to turn a 22-19 deficit into a 27-24 lead. The two teams then traded baskets to make it 26-29 and Glasper got a steal to give the Mustangs a chance to increase their lead. He threw inside to Trey Thompson who lost the ball as he turned towards the basket.

A frenetic scramble for the ball ensued and Devin Campbell finally picked it up underneath the Jacksonville basket before it was knocked out of bounds. Lofton was then given a technical foul for arguing that Thompson had been fouled at the other end.

Campbell missed both free throws, but the technical killed Forrest City’s momentum with 2:34 left in the half.

From that point, Jacksonville closed the second quarter with a 9-0 run and too the game’s biggest lead up to that point into halftime.

Long-range shots kept Forrest City close in the first half. The Mustangs made six 3-pointers, three each by Glasper and Jordan.

Glasper led all scorers with 18 points. Dwain Whitfield added 13, Jordan scored 12 and Thompson, the game’s Most Valuable Player and University of Arkansas signee, added 10.

Campbell led Jacksonville with 15 points. Kanaan Jackson scored 12 and Tyree Appleby 10 for Jacksonville.

Forrest City hit 20 of 25 free-throw attempts while Jacksonville was just 12 of 20.