Tuesday, November 24, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils win Bank Classic

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville boys’ basketball team won the Searcy Bank Classic for the third year in a row. This year’s tournament only featured three boys’ teams, and the Red Devils won both of their games to bring home the first-place trophy.

On Saturday, Jacksonville pummeled the host team 63-29, but it was Friday’s game that will go down as one of the most exciting in the state of Arkansas this year.

Jacksonville beat Forrest City 101-98 in overtime after trailing by 10 points with three minutes remaining in regulation.

Jacksonville’s big deficit came after the Mustangs erased a 14-point Jacksonville lead in the third quarter before pulling out to their own double-digit lead.

“It was one of those games the fans love to watch where everybody’s running and nobody’s playing defense,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “We should’ve lost. We were down 10 with two minutes left, but they (Forrest City) didn’t pull it out and just kept running. So we were able to tie it and go into overtime.”

Forrest City coach Dwight Lofton was most impressed with the determination displayed by both teams.

“The fans saw the heart of both teams on the floor,” said Lofton. “Both teams were down and both teams fought their way back.”

Jacksonville led throughout the first three quarters. The score was 22-19 at the end of one period, 41-35 at halftime and 60-58 at the end of the third quarter.

Jacksonville led by as much as 52-42 in the third quarter, but Forrest City went on a 23-8 run to take a 65-60 lead with two minutes into the fourth quarter, and the margin grew to a seemingly insurmountable 82-72 with only one minute remaining in regulation.

Jacksonville’s Tyree Apple-by went to the line three-straight possessions, scoring one bucket and making all five free throws. Still trailing by three, Jacksonville’s Caleb Kendrick nailed a long-range shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime tied at 84.

Jacksonville’s LaQuawn Smith scored first in overtime and the two teams traded baskets all the way to 94-94 with 1:20 left in overtime. Forrest City then got a defensive stop and took the lead on two free throws by Montee Randle, but Smith scored at the other end to tie it again with 55 seconds to go.

Mustang senior phenom R.J. Glasper gave Forrest City its final lead and bucket of the game with 40 seconds left, and Jacksonville closed it out with a 5-0 run, all by Smith.

Glasper led all scorers with 37 points while Randle added 29 and Trajan Norvent 18 for the Mustangs.

Appleby led Jacksonville with 28 points. He was 12 of 13 from the free-throw line, including 11 of 11 in the fourth quarter and overtime. DuJuan Ridgeway scored 27 and Smith added 23. Jacksonville was 29 of 36 from the free-throw line, and the three leading scorers were a combined 25 of 28.

Saturday’s win over Searcy was dramatically different than the close half the two teams played against each other in the North Pulaski Jamboree on Nov. 7. Searcy led that one until Jacksonville took its first lead with two minutes left and won by eight. Searcy’s Jeremiah Clifton got hurt in the first quarter of Saturday’s game and didn’t return. He is the Lions’ leading scorer and that played a role, but Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner credits his team’s work ethic in practice for much of the turnaround.

“We are so inexperienced I tried simplifying my system and just run things I thought they could pick up on pretty quick,” Joyner said. “It just wasn’t working. I felt like there was more we could do if these guys will just learn, so I started putting it all in. And to their credit, this team works. They’ve worked hard on it. They don’t have it yet. They’re still learning and they still have a lot to learn. But you give me a team that’s willing to work, and go to bat with those guys. These kids have shown the willingness to work, and they’ve’ gotten better because of it. You could see it in this game.”

Jacksonville led 30-6 at halftime against Searcy. The Lions managed just one bucket in each of the first two quarters. Kaleb Ramey came off the bench to score eight points for Searcy in the fourth quarter, but Jacksonville still stretched its lead to 52-22 by the end of the quarter, invoking the sportsmanship rule the rest of the way.

Ramey and Simon Medley led Searcy with nine points each. Smith led Jacksonville with 16 points while Appleby added 13.