Saturday, November 14, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> JHS girls win first two, fall to Lady Wolves

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils complete a furious first week of play today at the Mid-South Classic at Pine Bluff High School. It will be the fifth game this week and sixth in the last eight days, counting the J.A. Fair jamboree last Saturday.

The Jacksonville ladies officially started the season with a 49-41 win over Pine Bluff Dollarway in the first round of the tournament on Monday. Back home on Tuesday, the Lady Devils beat Mount St. Mary 49-44. On Thursday in the semifinals at PBHS, Jacksonville lost for the first time this season 53-37 to Lake Hamilton. On Friday, West Memphis came into central Arkansas and beat the Lady Devils (2-2). Today, they will play Pine Bluff High at 11:30 a.m. in the third-place game of the Mid-South Classic.

Despite scoring the same point total in the first two games, first-year Jacksonville coach Crystal Scott felt her team played much better offensively against MSM.

Junior Alexis James and senior Desiree Williams led JHS in scoring on Monday with 10 points each. Against MSM, Williams again led the way with 14 while James added nine.

Scott was not very pleased with her team’s performance on Thursday, but she was pleased with how her team responded to a huge second-half deficit.

After jumping out to a 7-4 lead with 3:30 left in the first quarter, the Lady Devils suffered a long scoring drought. Lake Hamilton led 10-7 at the end of the quarter. Jacksonville managed three free throws and continued to play good defense, but didn’t make another shot from the floor until James hit a 3-pointer with 1:06 remaining in the half.

The third quarter was even worse. Jacksonville went into halftime trailing 24-13, and was on the brink of being mercy ruled by late in the third quarter.

Lake Hamilton led 44-16 with 29 seconds left in the third quarter, and had two possessions to make it a 30-point advantage. But Jacksonville’s Tatiana Lacy blocked a shot and Williams got a steal. Just before the buzzer, Peyton Matheny hit a 3-pointer for Jacksonville to make it 44-19 going into the fourth quarter.

Lake Hamilton never pulled its starters, and the Lady Wolves’ coach admonished his team for not finishing off the Lady Devils. But Matheny’s shot was just the beginning of Jacksonville’s resurgence.

Lacy, who missed almost all of the first three quarters with foul trouble, played the entire fourth quarter with four fouls, but didn’t play timid. Williams got hot from outside and Lake Hamilton was awful from the foul line. Jacksonville pulled to within 46-33 with four minutes remaining, but couldn’t capitalize on two chances to get closer.

Lake Hamilton’s Anna Ledbetter missed a pair of free throws and Lacy got the rebound, but the JHS center rifled a pass much too hard for the nearby James to handle. The ball went out of bounds and back to the Lady Wolves. Jacksonville got another when LHHS missed a 3-pointer, but no one blocked out the shooter, who followed her shot and hit an easy layup for a 48-33 lead with three minutes remaining.

“Our inability, or our reluctance, to run a half-court offense is what killed us tonight,” said Scott. “We want to make one pass and drive or throw something up. We’re not going to beat good teams doing that. The good thing about it is, it’s very early, and we didn’t quit. Keep giving me effort and we’ll keep getting better.”

Jacksonville dominated on the boards, outrebounding Lake Hamilton 41-17, but field-goal percentage was so poor, the extra shots didn’t help. Jacksonville made a respectable 6 of 19 3-point attempts, but was a dismal 5 of 39 (13 percent) from 2-point range. JHS made 9 of 18 free throws.

Lake Hamilton was 18 of 35 from two-point range, 4 of 11 from three and just 8 of 23 from the free-throw line.

Williams led Jacksonville again with 15 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Lacy added eight points and nine rebounds despite limited playing time.