Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Devils too small for ’Dogs

Leader sports editor

CONWAY – The Jacksonville Red Devils fell into a hole early Saturday, and could not climb out, losing 62-49 to Fayetteville in the championship game of the Wampus Cat Invitational.

The Bulldogs started four players as tall as or taller than Jacksonville’s tallest, but it was from outside that Fayetteville did its damage early. The Bulldogs hit four 3-pointers in the opening frame and took a 17-8 lead by quarter’s end.

The Bulldogs hit two more early in the second quarter to extend the lead. Jacksonville began to utilize pressure to try to get back into the game, but the Fayetteville guards handled it well and the post players finished well after the press was broken.

“There wasn’t anything we could do with those big guys inside,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “And their guards were solid – good ball handlers. They were bigger than us and could see the floor. They didn’t get rattled. They’re just a well-rounded team and they played well. They’re just a tough matchup for us.”

Fayetteville dominated the rebounding category in the first quarter, but Jacksonville evened that out as the game went on.

Tedrick Wolfe and Maurice Young led the way for Jacksonville in that area, aggressively going after missed shots the rest of the game. It symbolized one aspect of the game that Joyner was proud to see.

“We battled,” Joyner said. “There was plenty of frustration because we just couldn’t do anything with them, but I didn’t see anyone giving up out there. That’s a good sign.”

Jacksonville trailed 31-19 at halftime. Red Devil senior Devin Campbell led a brief charge that got Jacksonville back to within single digits, but the Bulldog big men took over. 6-foot-6 post Josh Breathitt and 6-5 August Carlson combined for 10-straight points for Fayetteville, leading their team to a 47-31 advantage by the end of the third quarter.

Jacksonville was aggressive offensively and got to the line consistently, but was horrible once there. The Red Devils made just 10 of 25 free-throw attempts. Shooting was bad everywhere for the Red Devils on Saturday.

They took more shots than did Fayetteville, but made just 33 percent, hitting 17 of 51 from the floor. They were 5 of 21 from beyond the three-point line.

Jacksonville scraped and clawed to within single digits again in the fourth quarter, but when it had to begin fouling to extend the game, Fayetteville made eight consecutive free throws to seal the win. The Bulldogs made 13 of 18 foul shots for the game. They were 21 of 46 from the floor, including seven of 15 from three-point range.

Campbell led Jacksonville with 16 points while sophomore point guard Tyree Appleby added 11 for the Red Devils, 7-3. Payton Willis led Fayetteville with 18 while Breathitt added 16 for the 8-1 Bulldogs.

To get to the championship game, Jacksonville had to get past a Hot Springs team in the semifinals that beat Jacksonville by 17 earlier this season. It was a struggle, but the Red Devils pulled it off 55-53 on Friday.

The early going looked much like the previous meeting, with the Trojans dominating the action and quickly taking a double-digit lead. A 12-point margin was reduced to 10 by the end of the quarter.

The two teams then battled evenly for most of the second period. After trailing by as much as 17-5, the Red Devils had pulled to within 29-22 by halftime. It was Jacksonville’s turn to dominate early in the third quarter, but Hot Springs, after giving up the lead and falling behind by five, pulled back to within one by the start of the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville managed to take a three-possession lead in the final 90 seconds and Hot Springs had to foul. The Red Devils made 8 of 10 foul shots, including six in a row down the stretch to seal the win.

Wolfe led Jacksonville with 18 points while Appleby added 16 and LaQuawn Smith 12. K.J. Corder led Hot Springs with 14 points. Exavian Christon added 13 and Anthony Tate 11 for the Trojans.

Jacksonville will take the week off for semester tests before coming back for the Red Devil Classic next Monday and Tuesday.