Tuesday, December 23, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Devils finally put away Catholic

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils picked up their eighth win of the season on Monday, beating Catholic High 60-47 in the first day of play in the two-day McDonald’s Red Devil Classic at JHS. Jacksonville built a big early lead and an even bigger one in the third quarter, but could never put the Rockets away until the final few minutes of the game.

Jacksonville’s 13-point halftime lead grew to as much as 18 early in the third quarter, but the Rockets pulled to within 52-44 with 2:45 remaining. The visitors had two possessions to get closer after Jacksonville committed four-straight turnovers, but the Rockets couldn’t convert on the offensive end.

“We got a big lead and got lackadaisical,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “Teams without any leaders, that’s what they do. This team doesn’t have anyone on the floor that can get people’s attention and get them to straighten up. There’s no leadership out there. There’s nobody but me out here trying to tell them what they need to be doing, and they ain’t listening.”

Catholic got out to a quick 7-4 lead on a pair of 3-pointers. Jacksonville answered with a 10-0 run, but successive Jacksonville turnovers gave Catholic an opportunity to close the opening quarter strong, and it did. The Rockets scored five-straight, including a 3-pointer by Davis Fox at the buzzer to make it 14-12.

Catholic point guard Chad Wharton got into foul trouble early in the second quarter and the Red Devils turned up the defensive pressure. The full-court man and trapping wreaked havoc on the Rockets without their floor general. Jacksonville went on a 14-2 run in the first three minutes of the second frame to take a 28-14 lead, but bogged down from there offensively.

Catholic also struggled offensively the rest of the quarter, managing just four points in the final five minutes of the half. But it was enough to pull to within 28-18 with 30 seconds remaining.

Jacksonville point guard Tyree Appleby put an end to the home team’s scoring drought with three free throws after time expired. He was fouled attempting a three at the buzzer and drained all three foul shots for a 31-18 lead at the break.

The Red Devils lead grew to 41-23 early in the third quarter with more pressure and a brief spurt of strong rebounding. LaQuawn Smith and Tedrick Wolfe got fast break dunks, and Devin Campbell slammed home an offensive rebound that came off the front of the rim.

The Rockets scored the next six points to make it 41-29 with two minutes left in the third, and got to within 43-32 on a Wharton 3-pointer with 1:25 on the clock.

Lakalon Huskey completed a 3-point play for Jacksonville before the quarter ended to put the Red Devils back up by 14.

Catholic first cut the margin to 10 on the first field goal of the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer Matthew Straessle, but Braylon James answered for Jacksonville with his own 3-pointer. Catholic got it to 11 and had two possessions to get the margin inside 10 but Campbell and Wolfe each blocked shots to save the double-digit lead until the final three minutes.

Overall, Joyner was displeased with his team’s performance, despite the victory.

“We try to press some but we’re not disciplined enough to run it,” Joyner said. “We don’t rotate right, don’t move our feet. We want to reach for everything. We didn’t rebound. We’d drive in the lane with no plan and just throw the ball up in the air. There was nothing positive to take from this game, other than the W.”

Campbell led Jacksonville in two categories, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds. James added 11 for the Red Devils (8-2) while Appleby added 10.

Duncan Diaz led Catholic with a double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Wharton was second in scoring with eight points, and added six assists, four rebounds and three steals.

Catholic (1-8) outrebounded Jacksonville 31-23, but shot just 31 percent from the floor. The Rockets were 11 of 41 from two-point range and 7 of 17 from outside the arc. They were just 4 of 11 from the free-throw line.

Jacksonville hit 23 of 29 foul shots and 17 of 35 from two-point range, but hit just 1 of 11 3-pointers.