Friday, February 13, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears earn sweep against JHS

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears went into the Devils’ Den at Jacksonville High School and walked out with a win and a season sweep on Tuesday. The game was nip and tuck for three quarters before the Lady Bears pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 50-43 victory to complete a season sweep of Jacksonville.

The two teams entered the game mired in a three-way tie with Beebe for second place in the 5A-Central Conference, making the outcome even more important.

“You and I both know how big this win was for us,” said Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis. “It was huge. I thought they played hard. I thought we were very aggressive. I don’t know. It was just a well-played game. We didn’t shoot very well, but we did almost everything else pretty well and we got a very big win.”

It was still a one-point game with 1:51 remaining. Sylvan Hills led 42-41 but both of Jacksonville’s starting post players had fouled out. Jerika Hardaway’s fifth foul sent Sylvan Hills point guard Jessica Brasfield to the free-throw line, where she made 1 of 2 to make it 43-41. A series of turnovers followed. Jacksonville’s Alexis James got the rebound, but it was stolen by Jahnay Duncan, who then walked with the ball. But Sylvan Hills freshman Alana Canady stole the ball and was fouled. She missed the front end of her one-and-one trip to the line, but Duncan got the rebound. She passed to Brasfield who was fouled, and this time made both shots for a 45-41 lead with 1:15 left.

James missed at the other end, and with 50 seconds remaining, Sylvan Hills senior Sarah Beckwith drained a 3-pointer that all but sealed the win.

Taylor Toombs made two free throws for Jacksonville with 36 seconds remaining, but Jacksonville (12-9, 7-3) was still forced to foul. This time it was leading scorer Antrice McCoy who fouled out sending Dabria Thompson to the line with 30 seconds to go. She hit both shots to set the final margin.

“I have to give a lot of credit,” said Jacksonville coach William Rountree. “We have played this team twice and both times they have absolutely killed us on the boards. That’s something we usually do well, but they have some good athletes and they have soundly beaten us twice in that aspect of the game, and I think it made the difference tonight.”

Jacksonville led 11-8 in the first quarter when Sylvan Hills went on an 8-0 run. Thompson got a 3-point play before hitting a 3-pointer, and Brasfield hit a running jumper to put the Lady Bears up 16-11 and force a Jacksonville timeout.

Sylvan Hills (12-9, 8-2) focused defensively on McCoy, who is averaging more than 20 points per game. She had four points and was held without a bucket until 50 seconds remained in the first half when she hit her first shot of the game.

That cut Sylvan Hills’ lead to 23-22. After a Thompson miss, James sank a running 40-footer at the buzzer to give the Lady Red Devils a two-point lead at intermission. But Jacksonville failed to capitalize on the momentum. Sylvan Hills started the third quarter with an 8-0 run.

“We got a big momentum swing with that big shot to end the half,” Rountree said. “But then we came out flat in the third quarter. Once we fell behind we were trying to swim upstream, and we just weren’t playing well enough to pull it off. I don’t question our effort at all. I thought we played hard. Sylvan Hills has a good team.”

Sylvan Hills won the rebounding battle 36-27, led by Duncan’s 12 rebounds.

“She played her best game of the year without a doubt,” Davis said of Duncan. “I think some of these girls are maybe still a bit too young to notice what that kind of effort and tenacity can do for you. But I think she can see it now and I think she’ll keep it up. She’s so athletic, and if she’ll work that hard she can do that consistently.”

Brasfield led all scorers with 16 points while Thompson added 15. Beckwith quietly contributed 11 points for the Lady Bears.

“I love her because I know I’m going to get 100 percent out of her every second she’s on the floor,” Davis said of Beckwith. “She loses her head a little bit every now and then, but I get her attention and she’s right back on track. And I never have to worry about effort. That’s why I love having her out there on the floor.”

James and McCoy each finished with 12 points to lead Jacksonville.