Tuesday, February 03, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> JHS girls win, boys lose third straight

Leader sports editor

The Jackson-ville Lady Red Devils stayed on pace with an easy road win while the boys’ continued their slide down the conference standings at J.A. Fair on Friday. The Jacksonville girls had a huge second quarter en route to a 73-32 victory while the boys lost their third-straight game 66-62 to the Eagles.

The Lady Devils enjoyed balanced scoring in the victory, something they have strived for in recent games. Four players finished in double figures.

“That’s something we’ve needed,” said Jacksonville girls’ coach William Rountree. “We’ve been seeing improvement in that area little by little. We’re definitely going to need it down the road. We’ve got an interesting conference race shaping up so we’ll need to be better than we’ve been.”

Jacksonville jumped out to a 19-9 lead in the first quarter, and then blew the game open by outscoring its host 28-6 in the second quarter. Rountree kept his starters in the game for just a couple of minutes in the third quarter before emptying the bench the rest of the way.

“We did what we needed to do,” Rountree said. “Fair’s not very good, but we didn’t have a letdown. We got a lot of people a good amount of playing time and we need the experience for our younger players. So it was a good game for us.”

Senior guard Antrice McCoy led Jacksonville with 18 points. Sophomore guard Alexis James added 15. Junior guard Desiree Williams scored 15 and sophomore Taylor Toombs scored 10.

The Lady Devils (11-8, 6-2) and the rest of the 5A-Central Conference took Tuesday off. They will return to play on Friday at home against Beebe. Jacksonville, Beebe and Sylvan Hills finished the first round robin in a three-way tie for second place. All three won on Friday and all three are now 6-2 in league play.

“We’ve got a big one coming up,” Rountree said. “Right now it’s a perfect triangle. Last time we went over there and jumped on them early and played really well. We can’t assume that’s going to happen again. Since then we lost to Sylvan Hills and they beat them. So we need to be ready to play.”

The Jacksonville boys appeared on their way to another smooth victory after two quarters of play. The Red Devils held Fair’s star guard Jerrick Cole scoreless in the first quarter and to just six points in the first half as they built a 33-24 lead at the break. That all changed when almost everyone for Jacksonville went scoreless in the third while Cole heated up.

Cole and teammate Kevon Bryant combined for five 3-pointers in the third quarter while Jacksonville could muster just one basket and four points. The Red Devils committed seven turnovers in the third, and compounding that problem, when shots were taken, they were almost always off the mark. Fair outscored Jacksonville 21-4 and took a 45-37 lead into the final frame.

The nine-point lead was gone within two minutes of the third as Cole started the period with a pair of 3-pointers while Kris Bankston added a bucket and free throw. Jacksonville went three possessions with attempting a basket, committing three turnovers, and also missed a dunk and a point-blank layup after a steal by Devin Campbell.

“They didn’t change a thing and we didn’t change a thing from what we were doing in the first half,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “We just didn’t play any defense in the second half and we had some people disappear on offense. Defense is something we haven’t been doing with focus all year. Defense is something you take with you from practice, and this group don’t practice hard, but for about 30 or 40 minutes. That’s about all the focus I can get out of these guys.”

Campbell and point guard Tyree Appleby combined for 21 of Jacksonville’s 25 fourth-quarter points, but Cole always had an answer at the other end. Appleby scored 11 of his team high 18 in the fourth while Campbell scored 10 of his 14 in the final period. LaQuawn Smith was the only other Red Devil in double figures with 11.

Cole led all scorers with 32 while Bryant added 11 for the War Eagles.

The game’s results put Jacksonville (16-5, 5-3) in a tie for third place with Fair. Each team is three games behind first-place McClellan (8-0) and two behind second-place Mills (7-1).

The team had a long meeting after Friday’s loss, and Joyner hopes it will have a positive impact.

“I’m tired of screaming and yelling,” Joyner said. “We hopefully put a lot of negative things in the trash, and I just told them it’s time they take the reins. We coaches, we’ve done all we can do. It’s on them from here on out. I’m still going to work my butt off breaking down film, putting together game plans and showing them the best way to win basketball games. After that, it’s on them; to take it seriously, work hard, work as a team and just go out and do it.”