Friday, December 26, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Devils ward off charging Lady Falcons

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils saw a huge lead almost completely evaporate before regrouping for a 54-47 win over crosstown rival North Pulaski on Tuesday. It was a nonconference matchup between in the two 5A-Central teams on the second day of play in the McDonald’s Red Devil Classic at JHS.

The Lady Red Devils totally dominated the first two and a half quarters of play, holding the Lady Falcons without a field goal until the 4:19 mark of the second quarter. The home team took a 31-12 lead into halftime and extended the lead to its largest at 39-17 in the third quarter. From that point until the halfway point of the fourth quarter, North Pulaski went on a 26-5 run to pull within 44-43 with 4:24 remaining.

Jacksonville coach William Rountree called three timeouts to try and stem the tide before it got that close, but the Lady Falcon run continued until it reached one point.

From there, Jacksonville scored the next six-straight to reclaim control of the game, holding a 50-43 lead with 1:49 remaining.

North Pulaski sophomore Allison Seats led the Lady Falcons’ second-half surge, scoring 19 of her 25 points in the second half. She was a focal point of Jacksonville’s defensive game plan entering the game.

“We knew coming in that No. 12 (Seats) is a great little player,” said Rountree of the 5-foot-1 Seats. “I think we got a big lead and we got comfortable. But you know we’re still battling from an experience standpoint, and this was a good learning experience for us. Hopefully we learned a good lesson tonight. We still got a win and we’ll get better from it.”

North Pulaski coach Stacy Dalmut took little consolation in her team’s valiant comeback – noting her team’s sudden lack of spark when the run came to an end one point short.

“We got right there but we didn’t finish it,” said Dalmut. “I don’t know why were dominated like that for a brief while and then stopped. Maybe we were tired but that just means we have to be in better shape. The main thing is we have to come out like that from the beginning, and play the whole game that way. If we’ll just do that, we’ll beat this team.”

Two free throws by Seats and one by Ilycia Carter were all the points NP could muster in the first quarter as Jacksonville guard Antrice McCoy dominated the early action. She scored 11 of Jacksonville’s 12 first-quarter points. The Lady Red Devils got three steals on three-straight NP possessions to start the second quarter to take a 19-3 lead with five minutes left in the half. McCoy scored 15 of her 26 in the first half.

Jerrica Hardaway scored the basket that gave Jacksonville its biggest lead before the Lady Falcons mounted their furious rally. The gap closed from 39-17 to 42-31 by the end of the third quarter. NP then opened the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run, including nine in a row to get it to 44-43.

Seats provided the game’s highlight reel play during the fourth-quarter run. She got a steal in the backcourt and drove to the bucket towards McCoy, who was alone to defend the fast break. McCoy fouled Seats and spun her away from the basket, but Seats flipped the ball backwards over her head and scored to set up the and-1 free throw. She made the foul shot but a lane violation nullified it, leaving the score 44-38 with 5:03 remaining in the game.

Jacksonville then missed two free throws and Carter completed an and-1 at the other end to make it 44-41. Seats then got another steal and hit a short jumper to cut the margin to one point.

Missed free throws by Jacksonville played a huge role in North Pulaski’s comeback as well. Jacksonville made just 6 of 18 foul shots during NP’s run, and just 11 of 29 for the game.

“You’re not going to win very many like that,” Rountree said. “That’s an area we’ve struggled all season, but there’s no reason we can’t shoot better than 35 percent.”

It was, ironically, at the foul line where Jacksonville finally sealed the game. Post player Tatiana Lacy hit 3 of 4 in the final minute to extend the Lady Devils’ lead.

The Lady Falcons made 12 of 22 free throws and field-goal percentage was bad by both teams.

Jacksonville (5-7) made 20 of 64 for 31.3 percent, while North Pulaski (3-8) hit 16 of 62 shots for 25.8 percent. North Pulaski outrebounded Jacksonville 37-36.

Lacy finished second in scoring for Jacksonville with eight points, and led the team with eight rebounds. Carter finished with 11 points and six rebounds for NP, while Raigen Thomas, who fouled out with 2:11 remaining, finished with seven points and 10 rebounds for NP.

North Pulaski is off for two weeks before resuming play on Jan. 6 at home in the conference opener against Pulaski Academy. Jacksonville also opens conference play at home on Jan. 6 against J.A. Fair.