Friday, March 07, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils knock off Hope

Leader sports editor

ALMA – Very little basketball was played in the first boys’ game on Friday in the class 5A state tournament, but what little was played favored Jacksonville. The Red Devils trudged through to the second round with a 75-64 win over Hope in a game that featured free throws more prominently than anything else.

All told, there were 48 fouls called and 70 free throws shot between the two teams. Three Bobcats fouled out, as did Jacksonville’s Sergio Berkley and Damarion Freeman. Compounding the frustration for Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner is the fact that his game was typical of the tournament through the first eight games that began on Thursday.

“Teams are out here trying to win a state title and they’re calling it like it’s a 1A or 2A game,” said Joyner. “Teams are just force-driving the ball now and the refs are bailing them out every time. That’s why they’re doing it. You can’t get any flow going in a basketball game like that.”

There were eight lead changes and seven ties in the game, but they all came in the first half.

Hope opened the game shooting a high percentage, largely because they shot mostly layups. The Bobcats took a 15-14 lead into the second period, and had scored on six layups and a 3-pointer. Jacksonville took a 21-17 lead with five minutes left in the second quarter on a three-point play by Berkley.

Hope went up 24-23 with three minutes to go on a three-point play by Michael Beasley, and that was the last lead change of the game.

Jacksonville, 24-4, put together a 14-3 run over the remainder of the first half to take a 37-27 lead into intermission. Though the Red Devils could never completely shake the Bobcats off in the second half, the margin was never less than six the rest of the game.

A simple change in defensive scheme made the difference in those final few minutes of the half.

“We switched to the 2-3 zone and that changed the game,” Joyner said. “They were getting to the basket against our man because everybody was getting into foul trouble. The kids were afraid of getting called and were letting them go by. I try to teach my kids to be aggressive and then you get out here and they can’t be aggressive. When we switched to that zone, it stopped their penetration and we were able to get a little lead.”

Neither team could get anything going in the second half because of the constant whistle. Both teams threatened to go on big runs that would have either blown the game open or made it an exciting, close game, but free throws ruled the day and stopped any chance for either team to make a run.

Of the 70 free throws shot in the game, 46 came in the second half. Junior Devin Campbell shot 18 of Jacksonville’s 39 free-throw attempts.

He made only 10 of them, but finished with a game-high 24 points. Berkley was second for Jacksonville with 15 and freshman Tyree Appleby added 11. Jerren Smith led Hope with 20 points and Kenneth Thompson added 19 for the Bobcats.

Jacksonville will play at 8:30 p.m. Monday against the winner of today’s game between Morrilton and Greene County Tech.