Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville overcomes focus factor

Leader sportswriter

Pulaski Academy gave top-ranked Jacksonville all it wanted in Friday’s 5A-Central matchup at the Devils’ Den, but the Red Devils made enough plays in the second half to get the win by the final score of 57-52.

Jacksonville (15-2, 4-0) trailed Pulaski Academy (8-6, 2-2) by four at the end of the first quarter with the score 20-16, and the Bruins led by as much as nine in the second quarter before the Red Devils cut the Bruin lead down to three by halftime with the score 32-29.

Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner didn’t like his team’s mental approach leading up to Friday’s game, and although he gave Pulaski Academy all the credit for the way it played and competed, he said his team’s lack of focus made the game tougher than it probably should’ve been for the No. 1 team in Class 5A.

“This game was close because PA is a good team,” said Joyner. “Let me say that first. That’s why it was close. Second, we made this game tougher than it was Wednesday and Thursday in practice.

“This team has no vocal leadership. I had to kick them out of my gym for two days. We hardly practiced Wednesday and Thursday. That game was tough between their ears. They weren’t focused. They were thinking they were good.

“You can’t be that way and play a team like Pulaski Academy. In the second half they realized that. After a spirited, deep, heart-felt talk, I think they understood what I was saying. It’s between their ears.”

Two minutes into the second half, Jacksonville tied the game at 32 with a 3-pointer by Lakalon Huskey. The Red Devils took their first lead of the second half on a corner three by Tyree Appleby at the 5:08 mark of the third quarter. Appleby’s three made the score 36-34 Jacksonville.

Jacksonville pushed its lead to 42-36 by the end of the quarter. That margin was set on a lane-penetrating bucket off the glass by Red Devil guard Dejvan Ridgeway on the last possession of the quarter.

However, PA wouldn’t go away quietly. Fifty-nine seconds into the fourth quarter, junior sharpshooter Lawson Korita sank an NBA-range three that cut the Red Devil lead to 42-39.

With 4:22 to play, the Bruins tied the game at 46 on a transition layup by Tra Johnson. Neither team scored again until the 2:49 mark. Appleby scored with a driving lay-in that put Jacksonville up 48-46.

With 2:20 to play, Zach Fryxell gave PA a 49-48 lead with an and-1 putback after a missed three by teammate Isiah Woods. With 1:47 to play, Jacksonville regained the lead, 50-49, with an inside bucket by Tedrick Wolfe, which was set up by a nifty pass from the free-throw line by Devin Campbell.

Jacksonville never lost the lead again. The Red Devils led by as much as 56-49. With less than 30 seconds remaining, Woods made it a four-point game with a long three, and Campbell set the final score with a free throw with 9.4 seconds remaining.

The Red Devils finished the game 19 of 42 from the floor for 45 percent. Pulaski Academy made 19 of 47 shot attempts for 40 percent. From the free-throw line, Jacksonville made 13 of 22 attempts for 59 percent. The Bruins made 9 of 14 attempts for 64 percent.

Pulaski Academy outrebounded Jacksonville 24-20, and the Red Devils committed one fewer turnover, 14, than the Bruins’ 15 committed.

Campbell led all scorers with 17 points. Appleby and Wolfe also scored in double figures. Appleby had 14 points and Wolfe had 11. Korita led the Bruins with 16 points, and was the only PA player to score in double figures.

Jacksonville played host to North Pulaski on Tuesday night after deadlines, and the Red Devils will play another 5A-Central game Friday at Mills University Studies. Friday’s games start at 6 p.m. with the girls taking the floor first.