Wednesday, February 18, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Devils dominate at PA

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville boys overcame a three-point halftime deficit to beat Pulaski Academy 63-44 Friday, giving the Red Devils sole possession of third place in the current 5A-Central standings.

Jacksonville (18-6, 8-3) trailed Pulaski Academy (11-10, 5-6), who’s fifth in the conference standings behind Little Rock Fair (15-9, 7-4), 14-11 at the end of the first quarter, and 27-24 at halftime. The Red Devils began to turn things around in the third quarter.

Jacksonville cut the PA lead to one, 29-28, with a pair of free throws by LaQuawn Smith at the 6:02 mark of the third quarter. With 5:33 left in the third, Smith gave the Red Devils their first lead since leading 3-2 early in the first quarter on an and-1 that made the score 31-29.

The Red Devils led by as much as six in the third quarter. With 3:17 to go in the quarter, point guard Tyree Appleby banked in a short floater that upped Jacksonville’s lead to 35-29.

Pulaski Academy’s offense struggled mightily throughout the second half. The Bruins’ first field goal of the half came on a steal and reverse layup by junior scorer Lawson Korita with 1:02 remaining in the third.

Korita’s bucket cut the Jacksonville lead to 37-33, and by the end of the third quarter, the Bruins got the Red Devil lead down to three, with the score 39-36. The Red Devils, though, pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville opened the fourth quarter with a 7-1 run to push its lead to 46-37. With 4:44 to play, PA guard Rico Lindsen became the first of three Bruin starters to foul out in the fourth quarter.

Lindsen’s foul on Jacksonville’s Lakalon Huskey put Huskey on the line. It wasn’t a shooting foul, but the Red Devils were already in the double bonus, and Huskey made 1 of 2 free throws to give Jacksonville a 48-41 cushion.

The Red Devils took their first double-digit lead with 3:36 left to play on a Braylon James free throw, which made the score 51-41. Shortly after, PA’s Tre Bruce picked up his fifth foul after delivering a hard one on Jacksonville’s Devin Campbell.

Campbell made both free throws to give the Red Devils a 53-41 cushion with 2:40 remaining. With 1:44 to play, Korita fouled out as well, and in turn, sent Appleby to the free-throw line, where he made both shots. That gave Jacksonville a 55-43 lead.

With 1:22 remaining, Jacksonville’s Campbell put an exclamation point on the win with a thunderous two-handed slam that made the score 57-43.

With 27 tics remaining, Tedrick Wolfe threw down a one-handed slam that made the score 61-44, and with two seconds left, Malik Aaron scored the final bucket on a putback that was the result of an Appleby miss.

Jacksonville’s second-half turnaround started with its defense, and included getting to the free-throw line more on offense. Pulaski Academy made 10 field goals in the first half, but just three in the second.

Both teams got to the line more in the second half, but Jacksonville was 2 for 2 from the stripe in the first half and 19 for 23 in the final two quarters.

“Once we got them out of their 3-2 (zone) and they had to go man, it gave us an advantage,” said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. “They’re not used to playing man-to-man. Those kids have been playing 3-2 ever since they’ve been in elementary school.

“All we had to do was be patient. They couldn’t keep up with us, so there was a lot of holding and grabbing and people out of position. We forced fouls by being patient.”

Joyner said he challenged his players at halftime in order to spark some motivation in them, and it showed on both ends of the floor throughout the second half.

“We challenged them,” Joyner said. “They’re better than what we saw in the first half. They were not focused. That’s been the problem – bone-headed plays and a lack of focus.

“I think they realized how bad they played in the first half, and they settled in and got focused and they played better as a team and were more focused. It makes a big difference.”

Jacksonville finished the game 20 of 45 from the floor for 44 percent. Pulaski Academy finished the game 13 of 44 from the floor for 30 percent. From the free-throw line, the Red Devils made 21 of 25 attempts for 84 percent. The Bruins made 13 of 19 shots from the stripe for 68 percent.

The Red Devils outrebounded the Bruins 31-20, and Jacksonville had two fewer turnovers, finishing with 14 to PA’s total of 16 committed.

Korita led all scorers with 27 points. He was the only Bruin to score in double figures. Jacksonville had three different players score in double figures. Wolfe had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Appleby scored 13 points, and Campbell added 12.

The Red Devils continued 5A-Central play last night at North Pulaski (4-17, 2-9) after deadlines, and they’ll play another crucial conference game this Friday at home against second-place Mills (16-5, 9-2), who beat Jacksonville last month.   

This Friday’s home game will tip off after the girls’ game, which begins at 6 p.m.